Population In Wild: 2,300 (estimated)
Among the largest of cranes, the red-crowned crane (or Grus japonensis) is a species of wading bird native to the wetlands, rivers and tidal flats of eastern Russia, China, Mongolia, Korea and Japan. Many cranes migrate and spend their summer in Russia, China and Mongolia, and the winter in Korea and China. Japan's population of red-crowned cranes however are residents and do not migrate.
The plumage of red-crowned cranes is white, with black tail feathers, neck and face, as well as a row of black feathers on the wings. They are named for the distinctive patch of bare, red skin on the top of their head. Red-crowned cranes stand 5ft to 5.2ft tall and can have a wingspan of 7.3ft up to 8.3ft. They weigh between 10.6lb and 23.1lb. Males tend to be heavier than females, but sexes are otherwise alike.
Red-crowned cranes are listed as a vulnerable species. In Japan, much of their natural wetland habitat has been destroyed for human settlement and infrastructure, while many of the areas in China used by migrating populations have been converted to farmland. To protect cranes, conservation groups have begun to create habitats for them and study their migration paths to better understand their choice of location. Additionally, captive breeding and reintroduction programs are in place to help bolster wild crane populations.
Red-crowned cranes may live solitarily or in large flocks. Within flocks, there will be a mix of solitary cranes and mated pairs with or without offspring. They are a sociable species but will act aggressively towards each other if they do not have enough space.
Red-crowned cranes are monogamous and generally mate for life. They choose their partner in a courtship ritual, called "duet", where they perform a synchronous dance. To initiate a duet, a male and female will move towards each other rhythmically until close. They then may hop, call, spin, skip, bow, jump, beat their wings, move their necks, and strut alongside in a long, mimicked sequence. In a flock, one pair duetting is likely to cause other pairs to join in. A pair's dance can occur in different situations and are thought to also play a role in advertising territory, choosing a nest site and fending off rivals. Close to breeding season in April and May, the female of a pair will choose a nest site and both cranes will build the nest together, generally on flat ground near tall grass. Nests tend to be built from sticks and grasses directly on the ground. Once built, the pair is likely to aggressively defend the nest and territory around it.
They will mate 2 to 3 times a day throughout their courtship and during nest building, which takes about a week. After this, the female will lay 1 to 3 eggs, usually 2, and both she and her mate will take turns incubating the eggs over 30 days. Once hatched, chicks are fed and cared for by both parents until they leave the nest at around 2.5 months old, after which they will slowly become more independent and forage for themselves. Offspring will remain closely linked with their parent until they are around 1 year old. In the wild, often only one chick will survive into adulthood.
At an age of 3 to 4 years old, red-crowned cranes reach sexual maturity, and will search for a partner and appropriate nesting site themselves.
Rice and Larvae · Amphibians · Whole Fish
- Red-crowned cranes have cultural significance in Chinese, Japanese and Korean myths, attributed with virtues like loyalty, purity, strength and peace.
- The mating dances, called "duets", of the red-crowned crane are very complex and involve two cranes mimicking each other; while their meaning is not yet fully understood, dancing in cranes is generally thought to express excitement.
- The red-crowned crane will be highly aggressive towards any animal approaching their nest.
- Red-crowned cranes are the heaviest crane species, with record weights measured at 33lb.
- Red-crowned cranes can reach an age of up to 75 years in captivity, which makes them one of the longest living bird species.