Red-crowned cranes have a mostly white plumage with a black neck and tail and black legs. Their heads have defined grey-black and white sections and a red crown after which they are named.
The breeding season for the red-crowned crane is April to May. Each pair will defend a territory of over one square kilometre. This territory can be as large as 12 square kilometres in Russia! Nests are built from reeds and grasses in water up to 50cm thick to protect the eggs and chicks from predators.
The diet of the red-crowned crane is varied and includes insects, aquatic invertebrates, frogs, fish and rodents. They also eat plants; from reeds and grasses to cultivated seeds such as rice.
Red-crowned cranes are classed as Endangered. The main threats they face are habitat loss and pollution. There are several reasons driving habitat loss. For example, wetland areas are drained for agriculture and development, developed areas then use water and so dry the remaining wet areas. Dams to control water level and generate electricity reduce water levels in wetlands, making breeding sites accessible to predators and reducing the red-crowned crane’s breeding success.
Poisoning is an additional threat. A number of adults have been found dead with heavy metal poisoning that has entered the water cycle from cities or oil fields. A conservation effort to support this species has had a mixed outcome: feeding stations are supplied to support the birds but this has led to crowding that puts the birds at risk of disease.