These rare and elegant cranes poke among the mud and grasses of inland marshes and mudflats of China and Japan.
The body and wing coverts are white, as is the top of the head except for the red crown. The neck and tail are black. Japanese Red-crowned Cranes are classified as Vulnerable. They are the second rarest crane, with current population estimated at 1700-2000 birds. They breed readily in captivity, and captive-raised birds have been released into the wild at three natural breeding sites.
Threats: habitat loss
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These cranes display extravagant courting dances that involve leaping and bowing, as well as throwing sticks and grasses into the air. Even long mated pairs dance with each other every season.
They prefer to nest and feed in marshes with relatively deep water, building their nests in areas with standing dead vegetation. Mainland populations migrate across Northeast China, dividing into 3-4 wintering sub-populations: birds from the east portion of the breeding range move across North Korea to areas near the DMZ. Birds from the west migrate along the Northern China Sea to coastal wintering areas in and around Jiangsu. Japanese populations are essentially sedentary: some family groups remain in breeding areas, and others move to wintering areas Hokkaido.
Breeding is in the spring, with eggs laid mainly in April, but sometimes in May. A nest of reeds and grass is built in relatively deep water, up to 20 inches deep. They will only nest in areas with dead standing reeds 12 to 78 inches tall. Chicks are brown with a white spot at the base of the wing. Fledging is in about 95 days. Sexual maturity is attained at 3 to 4 years.