Saturday, February 18, 2012

Red-crowned Crane

Grus japonensis
The Red-crowned Crane is a large species of bird that can be found in the rivers and marshes of East Asia. They are the heaviest of the Crane species, and are also the most aquatic; they live, breed, nest, and feed there. The Crane's diet consists of fish, insects, amphibians, and a wide variety of reeds and aquatic grasses.

Red-crowned Cranes are also sometimes referred to as Japanese or Manchurian Cranes. They are symbols of peace, long life, and fidelity in their native countries, and have long been represented in folklore and art. These birds are popular icons in Japanese wedding ceremonies, as the Cranes form lifelong monogamous pairs that frequently dance and sing to one another. They were also designated as one of Japan's National Animals in 1952.

Despite the reverence and persistence in culture and folklore, the Red-crowned Crane almost went extinct during the 20th century. Hunting, habitat loss, and devastation caused by World War II reduced the Japanese population down to only a handful of birds, and similar threats damaged populations elsewhere.

The species is now protected in Japan, South Korea, North Korea, and Russia. Other conservation efforts include the creation of supplemental feeding stations and the installation of bird-visible power lines. The population is rebounding, but wetland drainage and development continue to pose threats. Interestingly, the Demilitarized Zone has become a popular spot for these birds, but the fragile political nature of that area could cause the birds to lose this now human-free habitat.

IUCN Status : Endangered
Location : East Asia
Size : Height up to 62in (1.6m), Weight up to 22lbs (10kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Gruiformes
Family : Gruidae -- Genus : Grus -- Species : G. japonensis

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