Japanese Red-Crowned Crane


On average, red-crowned cranes are the heaviest crane species overall, weighing up to 25 pounds. The red-crowned crane is named for the red "cap" on top of its head, which is actually exposed red skin rather than red feathers. This cap becomes brighter during mating season, and is the only spot of color on the bird. The rest of the crane’s body is pure white, in contrast with black feathers on their neck and tail. Their wingspan can reach up to eight feet across, giving them an imposing appearance. 


The red-crowned crane's long, coiled windpipe enables it to trumpet so loudly that it can be heard from more than a mile away. They are an Asian species, which means that they are well adapted to cold temperatures. Japanese red-crowned cranes breed in northeastern China and adjacent parts of Russia, and migrate as far as the Korean Peninsula. They prefer to nest and feed in marshes and other wetlands. 

The red-crowned crane pairs for life, and their reputations for fidelity have made them a favorite motif on wedding kimonos. As a result, they have been honored for hundreds of years as sacred symbols of good luck, happiness, and love. 


The Japanese red-crowned crane is the second-rarest crane species with a total population in the wild of approximately 1,800 birds. Today it is illegal to hunt them in all nations where they normally occur. There are records of the bird being held in captivity as far back as 1861, and individuals have been kept and bred ever since.

As slightly aquatic birds with large home ranges, these cranes feed in water, using a “walk-and-peck” technique. In the 1950s, farmers began spreading corn on their fields for the birds to eat during the long winter. This annual ritual, as well as marking electrical lines, helped bring the Japanese red-crowned crane back from certain extinction.

Where are they?

These cranes live in a private portion of the Intensive Management Area.

Quick Facts

Scientific Name

Grus japonensis

Species Survival Plan





Wetland plants in fall, winter and early spring; insects and other invertebrates during breeding season

Originally Native To

Japan, China, Russia and North Korea


Long-legged, tall white bird with a black neck; black patches on its wings and red on top of its head; long beak


Wild 20 years
Captivity 40 years

Social Behavior

Monogamous for life