Red-Crowned Crane
(Tancho Tsuru)

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Name:Red-crowned Crane; Tancho Tsuru
Scientific name: Grus japonensis
Range: Amur River basin in eastern Russia and in southeastern Asia, including China and Japan.
Habitat: Marshes with deep waters and in croplands
Status: Endangered 
Diet in the wild: insects, aquatic invertebrates, fish, amphibians, rodents, reeds, grasses, heath berries, corn, and other plants 
Diet in the zoo: crane pellets, 500 grams of silversides fish (per day), and occational insects
Location in the zoo:  Lower walkway near the waterfowl areas.

Physical description: 

  • Height reaches to just over 5'. 
  • Weights up to 20 pounds. 
  • The wingspan reaches up to eight feet.
  • Color of the body is snow-white.
  • Color of the neck and the tips of the wings is black. 
  • Has a red circle shape on its head.
  • Has a long pointy beak for spearing its prey. 

General information: 

Red-crowned cranes are very communal and live in flocks.  They are the second rarest species of crane, the whooping crane of North America being the rarest.  There are between 1700 to 2000 red-crowned cranes in all of Eastern Asia.  It is one of the world's largest birds, and also one of the largest cranes.  These cranes are migratory which explains their various types of food they eat.  During the spring and summer the cranes fly east to the wetlands in temperate East Asia.  This is where they breed.  The cranes winter along rivers and in salt and freshwater marshes in Japan, China, and the Korean Peninsula.  The red-crowned cranes are generally monogamous, that is, mated birds stay together throughout the year, and even until one bird dies. Both the male and female build the nest.  The female usually lays two eggs that hatch at the same time.  Once the eggs hatch, the female is more involved with the domestic affairs while the male is responsible for defense.  These cranes are considered to be sacred to the Japanese people, and were declared the national Japanese bird in 1952.


Special anatomical, physiological 
or behavioral adaptations:

The red-crowned crane is named for the red "cap" on top of its head, whch is exposed red skin.  The crane's large size help it resist many different predators. It can also outrun the predators with its speed. The bill of the red-crowned crane is very pointed and sharp, the crane uses it like a spear. The shape of its bill makes it easier to gather food. 

The crane uses very elaborate dances for courting and other cummunication between each other. This dance consists of series of bows, head bobbing, leaps, and various other gestures. They also have a "unison call" between the male and the female before getting into other dance elements. 

Tancho cranes dance in the snow at Kushiro marsh.  Photo courtesy of the Alpha English Academy.

The red-crowned cranes rub a special oil that is secreted at the top of their tail on their feathers to keep them conditioned. They are excellent flyers that fly long distances during the migratory seasons, they also have large home areas .  The cranes nest and feed in marshes with deep water and will only nest in areas with standing dead vegetation.  The Japanese people consider the red-crowned cranes to be a sign of fidelity in marriage.  The Chinese believe that these cranes are a sign of luck and peace.


Comments about the Red-crowned Cranes of the Fort Worth Zoo:

There are two red-crowned cranes in the Fort Worth Zoo: one male and one female, who are potential breeders.  In 2005 the cranes produced one chick. Crane chicks are well developed at birth and grow fast. The chick seen here will reach the size of its parents in about four months. These particular cranes are not on loan and are owned by the zoo.  They came from a reserve in Japan, and have been on display at the zoo for about 10 years. 


Personal Observations: 

The red-crowned cranes at the zoo walk proudly and gracfully.  They are peaceful and serene animals.  But, they are curious, and if you were to stand at their cage for a period of time they will stretch their long necks and come to you to see what you are about.   

Crane Phylogeny

Source Materials and Related Links:
Page author: 
Brice Plemons
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