Japan’s National Bird: The Red-Crowned Crane, An Endangered Species

  • Every country has national symbols. Usually a symbol is chosen to represent unification in each country. National symbols represent the nation’s people, values, goals and history. Have you ever wondered what Japan’s national bird is?

    Well, they are called Red-crowned Cranes. They’re thought to be the fashion models in the bird world owing to how tall and elegant they are. Let’s learn more about them.

    Description and Habitat


    Red-crowned cranes are also known as Japanese cranes. In symbolic form, they are known as Tansho which means the “bird of happiness and long life.” They are said to be the largest and heaviest cranes in the world, measuring from 150-158 cm tall. They are snow white in color and are very rare. They love nesting in wetlands and rivers. Their usual habitat is comprised mainly by paddy fields, grassy tidal flats, and mudflats during winter. You can find them in the eastern part of Hokkaido.



    Red-crowned cranes have a highly omnivorous diet although some are somewhat considered herbivorous depending on the kind of crane. Typically, they can eat both plants and animals. They eat parsley, rice, water plants, carrots, acorns, reed buds, buckwheat and other water plants. They also eat animals such as goldfish, amphibian, salamander, crab, snail, dragonfly, birds and small reptiles. However, they have a special preference for waterfowl. This accounts for their long life span.


    This bird is considered to be an endangered species. There is only about 1,000 of them in Japan. It is said that they used to be hunted for their meat in the past. They were part of the emperor’s special meal thus the decline in the cranes population. Eventually, a legal protection act in1935 designated the crane as a Natural Monument. They were supported and given food so an increase in number became significantly evident. Please watch out for them the next time you head off to Hokkaido!

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