Ballerinas of the Snow: The Red-Crowned Cranes of Hokkaido

It is hard to imagine a more elegant crane than the ‘tancho’ as the red crowned crane is known in Japan. With their distinctive red patch of skin on top of their heads, and a height of 1.5m tall when fully grown, the tancho is the biggest of all crane species. But most impressive is their wingspan which reaches a massive 2.5 metres! A century ago, these birds were almost hunted to extinction. Then in 1935, they were designated a National Treasure, making hunting illegal. With protection and support, their numbers have slowly recovered to about 1,000 in Japan, and almost 2,000 globally.

Every December to January, visitors to the Kushiro Marsh in Hokkaido are treated to the sight of these majestic birds soaring into the clear winter sky, before landing in the snowscape for their annual mating dance. Discover the pure grace of these magnificent birds in the photo gallery below!

Photo: Michael Yamashita
Photo: Paul McKenzie
Photo: Guy Edwardes
Photo: Hideo Kashimoto

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