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Red-crowned Crane (Grus japonensis) Fact Sheet: Reproduction & Development

Red-crowned Crane (Grus japonensis)


  • Monogamous, as are all cranes (Archibald & Meine 1996)
  • Pair-bond with elaborate dancing and vocalizations
  • Breed April-May (Archibald & Meine 1996)


  • Nests built on wet ground or in shallow water 20-50 cm (8-20 in) deep
  • Nest building takes about a week (Britton & Hayashida 1981)
  • In China, nests built on ice over reed marshes (Ma 1981)
    • Nests built of stems, leaves, dried flowers of grasses and sedges
    • Nests shaped like shallow dishes
  • Prefer areas with standing dead reeds up to 200 cm (6.6 ft) tall (Archibald & Meine 1996)
  • Adults remain in wetlands throughout nesting and rearing season (Archibald & Meine 1996)

Egg laying

Egg laying

  • Lay both white eggs and pigmented eggs (Archibald & Meine 1996) (Vinter 1981)
    • Other cranes in cold regions lay darker, pigmented eggs
    • Cranes living in warm climates lay lighter colored eggs
    • Indicates red-crowned cranes may have once inhabited warmer climates


  • Clutch size: 2 eggs
  • Incubation: 29-34 days by both sexes (Archibald & Meine 1996)
  • Brooding: female broods at night; both sexes in daytime (Britton & Hayashida 1981)
  • First egg hatches 2-4 days before second (Vinter 1981)

Life Stages


  • Hatchling weight: 0.15 kg (5 oz) (Klenova 2007)
  • Yellow natal down covers chick for first two weeks (Ling et al. 1998)
  • Chicks leave nest on first day, soon after hatching (Vinter 1981)
  • Chicks can swim when only 2-3 days old (Britton & Hayashida 1981)
  • Chicks observed in wild sitting side-by-side several meters from nest (Vinter 1981)
  • Chicks follow parents on foot over their territory (Klenova 2007)
  • Small feathers by 3-4 weeks (Ling et al. 1998)
  • Juvenile plumage over entire body by 7 weeks (Ling et al. 1998)


  • Fledging: about 95 days (Archibald & Meine 1996)
  • By 110 days growth nearly complete (Klenova 2007)
  • Parent-chick social bond lasts 8 or 9 months, until arrival on wintering grounds (Klenova 2007)
  • Young retain a high pitched juvenile voice until beginning to live an independent life (Klenova 2007)
    • Studies suggest that shift to adult voice is triggered only when parental bonds are broken
    • Adult voice doesn't appear earlier when vocal apparatus appears fully developed
  • Adult voice: low pitched


  • At end of second year, most cranes attempt to form a pair-bond. (Archibald & Meine 1996)
  • Sexual maturity at 3-4 years

Typical Life Expectancy

Wild populations

  • Thought to be long-lived, but no systematic studies

Managed care

  • Median life expectancy
    • 29 years (AZA 2023)

Nesting Behavior

group of Red crowned crane

Red-crowned Crane built nests on wet ground or in shallow water.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Archibald & Meine (1996)
Britton & Hayashida (1981)
Conn (2006)
Ma (1981)
Klenova (2007)
Ling et al. (1998)

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