Endangered Elegance: Japanese Crane

Red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis)

One more image from my photo trip to Hokkaido, Japan: this one is of an adult Japanese crane, also known as Red-crowned crane (Grus japonensis).

Japanese cranes are huge birds that are about 5 ft/1.5 mt tall and are the only crane species with white primary feathers. In adult individuals, the majority of the body is white, with black plumage on the neck and face and black secondary/tertiary feathers: their distincitve mark is a red patch on top of the head.

Japanese cranes are well adapted to cold temperatures and mostly feed on fish and grains. During the courtship and mating period, their display is amazing and at times a little goofy 🙂 with much posturing, wing-flapping, unison calling and… dancing, which includes jumping in the air and tossing sticks or grass around. I will publish images of this interesting behavior on a future post.

Japanese cranes are very elegant, beautiful birds, as you can see. Unfortunately, however, their elegance brought them trouble, as at the beginning of the XX century they were hunted to the brink of extinction in Japan so that their plumage could be utilized to adorn hats and other fashion accessories.

Nowadays, only a very small population of Japanese cranes, that is estimated at 2,750 birds, survives in Japan (where the local population is non-migratory and now protected) and in mainland Asia (mostly Russia, China, Mongolia and Korea). Although the population in Japan is stable, the mainland Asian population continues to decline due to loss and degradation of habitat.

As a result, the Japanese crane is classified as Endangered in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Sources: BirdLife International; International Crane Foundation; BBC Nature; and the IUCN Red List

If you would like to see more images of mine, feel free to browse my Galleries.

As per my copyright notice, please respect my work and do not download, reproduce or use the image above without first seeking my consent. Thank you :-)


22 thoughts on “Endangered Elegance: Japanese Crane

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you, Heather – glad you liked the image.
      The bird was about 98 ft/30 mt away from me when I photographed it. It looks close because I used a 400 mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter on a DX sensor, which in 35mm terms add up to an equivalent focal length of 825mm! 🙂

  1. Dina

    What a divine beauty, Stefano! The light, the composition and the posture is just perfect. Thank you so much for the information about this crane, they are so majestic, I love them.

    Would you care to share your camera settings with us, dear Stefano? I’m struggling a bit with my new lenses all being 2.8 and I don’t get the light right. Just if you have time, ok?
    Have a great weekend, all of you.
    Love and hugs from the four of us in England

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you so much, dear Dina: I am glad you liked the image. 🙂
      Apologies for not including the technical data for the shot – there we go: Nikkor AF-S 200-400 VR with Nikkor AF-S teleconverter 1.4x, 1/1000 sec at f/8.0, ISO 400, of course on a tripod.
      Let me know if you have any questions/difficulties with your new lenses. Always happy to help if I can. 🙂
      A big hug,

  2. laurasmess

    Beautiful picture Stefano. So good to know the history and significance behind it also. I’ve never been to Japan but I am seriously desperate to visit. It sounds like such an amazing country.

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you, Laura: glad you liked the shot and also reading a bit about the bird. 🙂
      Japan is definitely an interesting country. I am in love with Hokkaido, the northern island! Hope you will get to go soon. 🙂

  3. the winegetter

    What an insanely beautiful animal. WOW. The colors are just striking, and I am imagining you crouching in a small make-do hut for days to get that shot, surrounded by snow…:) Well done, my friend.

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you so much, Oliver! Glad you liked it, my friend.
      The image-taking process was not so uncomfortable for this shot, but it still required tons of patience beside good insulation as it was so cold! 😉

    1. Stefano Post author

      Thank you very much, B! Yes, the bird is beautiful and it is indeed sad that so many animal species are under so much pressure for survival, mostly as a result of human behavior…

    1. Stefano Post author

      Now that would be a fun project, Tracy! 🙂
      My images have been exhibited at juried exhibitions and art shows, but I have not reached out to any gallery yet. It is something I want to do at some point, though.
      Thanks for the comment! 🙂

  4. ChgoJohn

    Probably because of their beauty and place in Japanese art, these cranes have been the subject of a few PBS broadcast programs — Nature and Nova, I believe. They are incredibly beautiful and it’s amazing that they can withstand temperatures so cold. One day, the mainland will look to protect these birds. I just hope it isn’t too late. This is another stunning capture that you’ve share. Thank you, Stefano.

    1. Stefano Post author

      Oh, that’s so interesting, John – I didn’t know! They definitely are beautiful birds: well, at the very least the Japanese population is stable and non-migratory… I know it is not much, but it is at least something…
      Thank you for your always thoughtful comments.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s