Migration ecology is one of the most important areas of Ornithology. To some endangered bird species, it is essential to know their migration ecology, i.e. migratory routs, stopover sites, wintering ground, and summer areas.
Black-necked crane is the only crane species live their life on high plateaus. It breeds at high elevations on the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau,in south-eastern Xinjiang, Tibet, Qinghai, southern Gansu and north-western Sichuan; it winters at lower altitudes on the Qinghai–Tibetan and Yunnan–Guizhou Plateaus, in Tibet (especially along the middle reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo river), southern Sichuan, northern Yunnan and western Guizhou. The world population of black-necked cranes is estimated at 8,000 and as a result this species is classified as vulnerable in IUCN red list. But little is still known about the migration ecology of black-neck crane.
Since 2004, the research group of Professor Xiaojun Yang carried out the project about migration ecology of Eastern population of black-necked crane using satellite tracking technology. The results showed a migration route from Caohai lake, Dashanbao, to Ruoergai marshland. The study also found some important stopover sites that never reported. The new discovery was published in Journal of Field Ornithology.
Black-necked Cranes were once common in northwestern Yunnan ,but this populations have either disappeared or declined to < 10 cranes at all sites except the Napahai and BitaHai wetlands due to habitat loss. Napahai has became the last refuge for the central population, with about 300 cranes (or about 90% of the central population) wintering there. So the research group carries on the project at Napahai wetland since 2009. Up to now, five cranes has been fitted with satellite transmitters. Of the five cranes, one (79631) was tracked during two spring migrations and one fall migration, one (79629) was tracked during one spring and one fall migration, and other three were tracked during spring migration. This study discovered the migration rout from Shangri-La in Yunnan province to mountain land in western Sichuan province (Daocheng, Litang, Xinlong, Baiyu counties) crossing over 1000m elevation gradient. The shortest rout was 170km and the crane spent one day to fly. The longest route was 600 km and the crane need about 20 days to fly to the breeding site.