The rare black-necked crane is highly honoured in the Himalaya region. These majestic birds migrate from Tibet to Bhutan in late autumn each year, predicting the end of harvesting season and the onset of farmer relocations to the warmer, lower valley. Known as Thrung Thrung Keh Narp, literally translating to thin, tall and black necked, over 300 of these avian wonders soar to the warmer Phobjikha Valley in the winter months, looping over the Gangtey Goenpa Monastery three full times, both when they arrive and when they leave. Bhutanese folklore attributes this mystifying and perplexing behaviour to the birds paying reverence to the three sacred jewels of Buddhism, as well as asking for protection throughout their stay. Traditional stories tell the tale of a pair of cranes that choose to stay behind each year, offering themselves to the Valley for their thanks and wellbeing. The Royal Society for Protection of Nature manages The Crane Centre, which displays material on the cranes and their environment, as well as guiding conservation awareness operations on this threatened bird.
A great time to visit Gangtey, the hilltop village, is in the winter months, especially November, when the Black-necked Crane Festival occurs in the courtyard of Gangtey Goenpa, with local songs, dramas and masked dances celebrating the endangered bird in fine Bhutanese fashion.