Red-Crowned Crane Fact File
The red-crowned crane features a bald patch on the forehead and crown which exposes the red skin underneath.
Across the rest of their body the feathers are mostly white except for the neck and lower portion of the head along with the tail which are black.
They have long legs which are colored slate or gray-black.
The eyes are colored black with a greenish-yellow bill. This is long and angular to help spear their prey.
Males tend to be larger than females but only marginally so. They stand 158cm (5ft) tall with an average weight between 7 and 12kg (15-26lbs). Red-crowned cranes have an average wingspan between 2.2 and 2.5m (7-8ft) across.
By average weight the red-crowned crane is the heaviest species of crane.
The red-crowned crane is considered an omnivore. Their diet includes insects, fish, amphibians, small mammals, bulbs, reeds, rice, grasses and corn. They tend to focus more on animal prey during summer with the grains and other plant matter being primarily consumed in winter.
In parts of their range their diet has been supplemented by humans providing corn, cereal grains and fish.
2.2 and 2.5m (7-8ft)
Wild 30 years
Captive 50 years
— AD —
Asia is the native home of the red-crowned crane. Here they live in China, Japan, Mongolia, Russia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea.
Their breeding areas are located among grass, reed and sedge marshes. While moving around during winter they will stop at wetlands, tidal flats, saltmarshes, rivers and man-made areas such as agriculture ponds.
Breeding takes place from April to May.
Their spectacular courtship display involves the pair leaping, bowing and flapping their wings at one another. During this they may also throw stones or feathers in the air.
Typically a pair will remain together for life. The pair maintain a large territory and to defend this they will call loudly.
They will build their nest on wet ground or in shallow water. Nesting takes place in areas with standing dead reeds. The nest is made out of reeds and grasses.
In to the nest females deposit up to two eggs which are incubated by both sexes. The incubation period is between 29 and 34 days. Males focus on defending the pair against danger.
Chicks will fledge at 95 day old. By three months old the chicks are following their parents to wetlands to forage for food.
The young adults leave their parents at the start of the next breeding season.
At hatching young are colored brown and have white spots.
Sexual maturity is reached between three and four years old.
In most years only a single clutch is produced.
During the breeding season they live primarily with their partner in a well defended breeding territory. Throughout winter they will come together in large groups with other birds at the feeding grounds.
Groups of red-crowned cranes are the largest family group of any crane.
Their vocalization is a high-pitched call which is a rattling kar-r-r-o-o-o. They can produce multiple variations of their call.
Most of their day is spent feeding. They are active by day and roost at night.
When running they will reach speeds up to 40kmh (25mph).
They are also known as the Japanese crane or the Manchurian crane.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the red-crowned crane mainly target chicks or eggs. These predators include dogs, foxes, raccoon dogs, badgers, martens, crows, ravens, birds of prey. Introduced minks threaten them in parts of Japan.
The tendency of the red-crowned crane to feed on croplands makes them more vulnerable to poisoning. Incidences of poisoning have increased in recent years.
Currently the primary threat to the survival of the red-crowned crane is the loss and degradation of their wetland habitat. This is mainly to convert these areas for agriculture but also for aquaculture and industrial development.
Human disturbance can prevent them from breeding.
Poaching also reduces their population as eggs are taken to supply the captive population.
Supplemental feeding in Japan helps to maintain levels of these birds but also brings large numbers of these birds together which can help to spread disease. Diseases spread easily through the population due to low genetic diversity stemming from a bottleneck in the 1950s. At one point their numbers dropped as low as 20.
To this day the red-crowned crane is considered the second rarest crane species after the whooping crane of North America.
Red crowned cranes are considered sacred in Japan. Here they are seen as a sign of fidelity in a marriage.
When averaged the red-crowned crane is considered the heaviest crane species.
In Chinese mythology the red-crowned crane was said to carry immortals between Heaven and Earth.
Taylor, B. and Orr, R., 2021. The bird atlas. Great Britain: Dorling Kindersley.
Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK
BirdLife International. 2016. Grus japonensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22692167A93339099. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22692167A93339099.en. Downloaded on 08 February 2021.
Animals. 2021. Red-crowned crane. [online] Available at: <https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/birds/r/red-crowned-crane/> [Accessed 8 February 2021].
Smithsonian’s National Zoo. 2021. Red-crowned crane. [online] Available at: <https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/red-crowned-crane> [Accessed 8 February 2021].
Red-crowned Crane (Grus japonensis) Fact Sheet. c2011-2017. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Global; [accessed 08 February 2021]. http://ielc.libguides.com/sdzg/factsheets/ redcrownedcrane
International Crane Foundation – International Crane Foundation. 2021. Red-crowned Crane – International Crane Foundation. [online] Available at: <https://www.savingcranes.org/species-field-guide/red-crowned-crane/> [Accessed 8 February 2021].
Oiseaux-birds.com. 2021. Red-crowned Crane. [online] Available at: <http://www.oiseaux-birds.com/card-red-crowned-crane.html> [Accessed 8 February 2021].
Twycross Zoo. 2021. Red-crowned crane | Twycross Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://twycrosszoo.org/animals/red-crowned-crane/> [Accessed 8 February 2021].
Copyright The Animal Facts 2023