VU
Red-crowned Crane Grus japonensis



Taxonomy

Taxonomic note
Subspecies status formerly suggested for mainland and Japanese breeding populations, based on differences in vocalization patterns; some variation between these populations in morphology, coloration and egg size, but preliminary DNA analysis has shown no significant genetic distinction. Monotypic.

Taxonomic source(s)
del Hoyo, J., Collar, N.J., Christie, D.A., Elliott, A. and Fishpool, L.D.C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Volume 1: Non-passerines. Lynx Edicions BirdLife International, Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge, UK.

IUCN Red list criteria met and history
Red List criteria met
Critically Endangered Endangered Vulnerable
- - A2ac+4ac; C1

Red List history
Year Category Criteria
2021 Vulnerable A2ac+4ac; C1
2016 Endangered C1
2013 Endangered C1
2012 Endangered C1
2009 Endangered C1
2008 Endangered
2004 Endangered
2000 Endangered
1996 Vulnerable
1994 Vulnerable
1988 Threatened
Species attributes

Migratory status full migrant Forest dependency Does not normally occur in forest
Land mass type Land-mass type - continent
Land-mass type - shelf island
Average mass -
Distribution

Estimate Data quality
Extent of Occurrence breeding/resident (km2) 2,110,000 medium
Extent of Occurrence non-breeding (km2) 1,060,000 medium
Number of locations 11-100 -
Severely Fragmented -
Population and trend
Value Data quality Derivation Year of estimate
No. of mature individuals 2000-2650,2300 medium estimated 2021
Population trend Decreasing medium estimated -
Decline (3 years/1 generation past) - - -
Decline (5 years/1 generation past) - - -
Decline (10 years/1 generation past) - - -
Decline (10 years/3 generation future) 5-25 - - -
Decline (10 years/3 generation past and future) 23-31,30 - - -
Number of subpopulations 2-3,2 - - -
Percentage in largest subpopulation 1-89 - - -
Generation length (yrs) 15.9 - - -

Population justification: Red-crowned Crane count data has been compiled with the assistance of the International Crane Foundation, IUCN Species Survival Commission Crane Specialist Group, the Red-crowned Crane Conservancy & species experts from each range country of the species (ICF/BirdLife International, unpublished data). The sum of all most recent counts in discrete wintering areas is 3,822 individuals; 1,900 in Japan in 2020 (Red-crowned Crane Conservancy 2020), 1,669 individuals in Korea (International Red-crowned Crane Network, unpublished data) and 353 in China (International Red-crowned Crane Network, unpublished data). The proportion of mature individuals has previously been estimated at around 60% (Jim Harris in litt. 2016). Accepting this as a precautionary proportion, the estimated number of mature individuals is 2,293, rounded here to 2,300 mature individuals.

Data for Japan is based on systematic monitoring to produce a total for each year (Red-crowned Crane Conservancy 2021). In 1973, the population was 213 individuals, whereas in 2020-21 it was 1,900 individuals (Red-crowned Crane Conservancy 2021). The increase in the Japan population has been very rapid for a bird with such a long generation length and has been driven by the provision of winter food at feeding stations and high level of protection granted to the species. Recent attempts to reduce the dependency of the population on the few feeding sites appear to have resulted in the stabilisation of the population at around 1,800-1,900 individuals: 1,850 were counted in 2015-16, falling to 1,600 in 2017-18 before climbing back to 1,900 in 2020-21 (Red-crowned Crane Conservancy 2021). This results in an estimated increase in the Japanese population of 780% over the past three generations. There is the expectation that this population will be managed such that numbers do not grow further, and numbers may reduce slightly as efforts to reduce the dependence of the population on supplementary feeding take effect.

The continental population is divided into those wintering in China and those wintering in the Korean Peninsula. The population in China has declined rapidly over at least the past three decades. Fewer data are available, however systematic counts have been attempted in some years. In the early 1960s, more than 1,500 individuals were estimated to be wintering in coastal Jiangsu (Shi Zerong and Wu Lingxiang 1987) and while this was the most significant wintering area there were still numerous additional sites occupied by small numbers, including Hongze Hu, Gaoyou Hu, Shaobo Hu in Jiangsu, Xinglong Sha of southern Jiangsu and eastern tidal flats of Chongming Islands in Shanghai, and Lake Shijiu Hu in Anhui (S. Chan in litt. 2021). As such, the total wintering population is assumed to have been considerably more than 1,500 individuals at the start of the past three-generation period (1973). While small numbers have continued to be observed at some of these sites (such as recent observations of a family of four at Shijiu Hu (Anhui Bird Watching Club 2021), these sites no longer hold a regular wintering population and the species had been lost from most by the late 1980s (S. Chan in litt. 2021). With the concentration of birds at few wintering sites more recent estimates of numbers are considered more accurate. A total of 1,163 individuals were estimated in winter 1999-2000, almost all (1,128) of which were at Yancheng National Nature Reserve (Wang et al. 2008). This was the highest count at the site of the annual numbers supplied for 1981-82 through to 2019 (Wang et al. 2008, Wang et al. 2020, Q. Fawen in litt. 2021). It is assumed that the increases up to 1999-2000 can be assigned to a concentration of individuals at Yancheng NNR. Most other individuals are present at the Huanghe/Yellow River Delta, with only small numbers elsewhere (International Red-crowned Crane Network 2021). Subsequent to this high point, an alarming decline has taken place; estimated totals wintering in China were 737 individuals in 2014-15, 600 in 2016-17, 580 individuals in 2017-18 and only 353 in 2019-20 (International Red-crowned Crane Network, unpublished data).
Accounting for the uncertainty in the past size of the Chinese wintering population through back projection of the counts in 1999-2000 and 2019-20 (Wang et al. 2008 and International Red-crowned Crane Network, unpublished data), the rate of decline here is estimated to have been 94.2% over the past three generations (48 years: 1973-2021). This projects that the size of this population was 5,382 individuals in 1973, making it by far the largest wintering population at the time. There is anecdotal information that suggests the population may have been large in the mid-20th century: flocks of more than 100 were reported to be regular at wetland sites destroyed in the 1970s (BirdLife International 2001) that are assumed to be additional to the more than 1,500 counted at Yancheng in the early 1960s (Shi Zerong and Wu Lingxiang 1987).

Counts of the Korean Peninsula wintering population have increased considerably since the mid-1990s, when 575 were estimated to be present spread across DPR Korea and Republic of Korea (Meine and Archibald 1996). 1,019 individuals were counted in 2009-10, 1,083 individuals in 2011-12, but recently a rapid increase has occurred, with 1,251 in 2017-18, 1,401 in 2018-19 and 1,669 individuals in 2019-20 (International Red-crowned Crane Network, unpublished data). However, none are believed to have wintered in DPR Korea since 2013-14 at the latest (Momose and Momose 2019) and within the Republic of Korea, feeding stations have concentrated birds at few sites. As in Japan, the current population is considered to be at or near a maximum that can be supported in the habitat remaining in the area, but likely exceeds that which would be supported by natural food supplies. Consequently it is suspected that the 2019-20 value is a peak number and the population will begin to reduce in next few years. Using the 1995-96 and the 2019-20 population estimates, but fixing the latter as the value for the assessment year (2021) results in an estimated increase over the past three generations of 606%, while using the 2009-10 count to project the past population gives a 611% increase. However, it is uncertain whether numbers wintering in Korea have been gradually increasing since the 1970s, or whether a larger number were present with only a recent increase, as there are no counts prior to 1994-95. Historic references suggests the species was common in North Korea in the late 19th century (BirdLife International 2001), but there is no further information until the mid-1990s.

Trend justification: The population trend in Japan has been a rapid increase whereas that on the continent has been mixed, with rapid decline in those wintering in China and an increase in birds counted in Korea (Momose & Momose 2019). The population trend for each of the three sections of the population has been estimated using the count data outlined under population size. For the Japanese population, with data available for the complete three-generation period (Red-crowned Crane Conservancy 2021), there has been an increase of 780% over the past three generations, from 213 individuals in 1973-74 to 1,900 individuals in 2020-21. There is the expectation that this population will be managed such that numbers do not grow further, and may reduce slightly as efforts to reduce the dependence of the population on supplementary feeding take effect. 

The continental population is divided into those wintering in China and those wintering in the Korean Peninsula. The population in China has declined rapidly over at least the past three decades. Accounting for the uncertainty in the past size of the Chinese wintering population through back projection of the counts in 1999-2000 and 2019-20 (Wang et al. 2008 and International Red-crowned Crane Network, unpublished data), the rate of decline here is estimated to have been 94.2% over the past three generations (48 years: 1973-2021). This projects a population size of 5,382 individuals in 1973, making it by far the largest wintering population at the time. This is a precautionary approach, given the estimate of more than 1,500 wintering in Jiangsu in the early 1960s (Shi Zerong & Wu Lingxiang 1987) and assumes the rate of reduction has been similar over the whole time. If the total given for Jiangsu represented 50% of the wintering population in China (on the basis that it was considered the largest wintering population), then the rate of reduction is considerably lower, at 85%, and the influence on the overall rate of population reduction is also much reduced.
For the Korean wintering population, feeding stations have concentrated birds at few sites and as in Japan the current population is considered to be at or near a maximum that can be supported in the habitat remaining in the area, but likely exceeds that which would be supported by natural food supplies. Consequently it is suspected that the 2019-20 value is a peak number and the population will begin to reduce in next few years. The longest span of reliable counts is between the 1995-96 and the 2019-20 counts: 575 (Meine & Archibald 1996) and 1,669 (International Red-crowned Crane Network 2021). Fixing the latter as the value for the assessment year (2021) (assuming the population is not going to increase further) results in an estimated increase over the past three generations of 606%. Using a more recent but potentially more precise count (due to concentration of individuals) from 2009-10 to project the past population results in a similar increase of 611%.

Overall the projected large past population size of the Chinese wintering population and its extremely rapid decline outweighs the increases in other wintering populations and the estimated rate of reduction for the species (using the count data outlined above) over the past three generations is 33.4% between 1973 and 2021. However, with every year the past rate of reduction falls sharply as the bulk of the population now resides in the two stable populations. For the shortest projection to the future (1974-2022), the estimated rate of reduction calculated in the same way as above (keeping the Japanese and Korean values fixed at the most recent count value) is 30.6%. One further year into the future and the rate of reduction falls below 30% over three generations. Estimating past rates of reduction it appears most likely that the overall past rate of population reduction last exceeded 50% for end years between 2007-2012, unless the 1960s Chinese wintering population was much larger than has been projected here.

With the apparent stabilisation of the populations in Japan and Korea, the ongoing rate of decline in the population wintering in China means that there is now an estimated continuing decline rate over three generations (1974-2022) of 30.6%. Over a shorter timeframe the rate of decline is much lower (and is an increase over one generation) as the recent rapid increase in the rest of the population outweighs the declining proportion. The rate of the continuing decline is expected to slow rapidly in the future as the three generation period no longer includes the period of rapid decline.


Country/territory distribution
Country/Territory Occurrence status Presence Resident Breeding Non-breeding Passage
China (mainland) N Extant Yes
Japan N Extant Yes
Mongolia N Extant Yes
North Korea N Extant Yes
Russia N Extant Yes
Russia (Asian) N Extant Yes
South Korea N Extant Yes
Taiwan, China V Extant Yes

Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA)
Country/Territory IBA Name
China (mainland) Huzhong Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Keluo He Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Maoshan Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Wuda Lianchi Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Bacha Dao Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Qindeli Sturgeon Reserve
China (mainland) Sanjiang Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Honghe Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Hala Hai
China (mainland) Laodengshan Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Zhalong Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Naoli He Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Lianhuanhu Waterbird Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Qixing He Wetland Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Heiyupao Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Tailai Dongfanghong
China (mainland) Qihulin He Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Yangdali Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Yueya Hu Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Hukou Wetland Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Xingkai Hu Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Jingpo Hu Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Melmeg (Momege) Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Niuxintaobao
China (mainland) Chagan Hu Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Xianghai Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Dabusu Hu
China (mainland) Yaojingzi Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Dashanzuizi
China (mainland) Songhua Hu, Baishan Hu and Hongshi Hu
China (mainland) Tumen River at Jingxin-Fangchuan
China (mainland) Shuangtai (Shuangtaizi) Estuary and Inner Gulf of Liaodong
China (mainland) Shuifeng Reservoir and middle reaches of Yalu Jiang
China (mainland) Laotieshan
China (mainland) Mangui
China (mainland) Hanma Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Genhe
China (mainland) Nuomin - Bila He - Dayangshu
China (mainland) Dalai Nur Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Huihe Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Tumuji Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Holqin Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Dali Nur Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Daqinggou Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Beidaihe
China (mainland) Qilihai Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Tuanbowa Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Beidagang Wetland Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Changdao Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Yellow River Delta Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Qingdao-Rizhao coastal wetland and islands
China (mainland) Yubei Huanghe Gudao Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Kaifeng Liuyuankou Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Sanmenxia Dam Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Heyang Huang He Wetlands Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Weinan Sanhe wetlands
China (mainland) Yancheng Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Gaoyou Hu
China (mainland) Shaobo Hu Lake Area
Japan Lakes Notoro and Abashiri
Japan Lake Tofutsu
Japan Notsuke, Odaitou
Japan Lake Furen, On-netou
Japan Kiritappu marsh, Biwase bay
Japan Lake Akkeshi, Bekanbeushi marsh
Japan Kushiro marsh
Japan Lower Tokachi river
Japan Tokachi coastal lakes
North Korea Amrok River estuary
North Korea Chongchon River estuary (including Mundok Nature Reserve)
North Korea Onchon field
North Korea Taedong River estuary
North Korea Unryul Kumsanpo
North Korea Daedong Bay
North Korea Ongjin Bay
North Korea Kangryong field
North Korea Chongdan field
North Korea Panmun field
North Korea Lake Manpo and Lake Bonpo
North Korea Orangchon River estuary
North Korea Lake Kwangpo
North Korea Kumya Bay
North Korea Ryonghung Gang estuary
North Korea Lake Tungjong and Lake Chonapo
North Korea Lake Samilpo
North Korea Anbyon field
North Korea Mount Kumgang
South Korea Daeseongdong and Panmunjeom marshes
South Korea Tidal flat area of southern Ganghwa-do island
South Korea Cheolwon basin
Mongolia Valleys of Khurkh-Khuiten Rivers
Mongolia Mongol Daguur
Mongolia Tashgain Tavan Lakes
Russia (Asian) Arkhara lowlands
Russia (Asian) Amur valley near Blagoveshensk
Russia (Asian) Khanka plain
Russia (Asian) Bolon' lake
Russia (Asian) Lower Tumen river
Russia (Asian) Lesser Kuril Ridge and Kunashir Island
Russia (Asian) Torey lakes
South Korea Yeonchon
China (mainland) Dazhanhe Wetland Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Huanzidong
China (mainland) Qidong Northern Yangtze Estuary Nature Reserve
China (mainland) Zhengzhou Huanghe Wetland Nature Reserve

Habitats & altitude
Habitat (level 1) Habitat (level 2) Importance Occurrence
Artificial/Terrestrial Arable Land suitable non-breeding
Marine Coastal/Supratidal Coastal Brackish/Saline Lagoons/Marine Lakes suitable non-breeding
Marine Intertidal Mud Flats and Salt Flats major breeding
Marine Intertidal Salt Marshes (Emergent Grasses) suitable non-breeding
Wetlands (inland) Bogs, Marshes, Swamps, Fens, Peatlands major breeding
Wetlands (inland) Permanent Freshwater Lakes (over 8ha) suitable non-breeding
Wetlands (inland) Permanent Freshwater Marshes/Pools (under 8ha) suitable non-breeding
Wetlands (inland) Permanent Rivers/Streams/Creeks (includes waterfalls) suitable non-breeding
Altitude 0 - 300 m Occasional altitudinal limits  

Threats & impact
Threat (level 1) Threat (level 2) Impact and Stresses
Agriculture & aquaculture Annual & perennial non-timber crops - Agro-industry farming Timing Scope Severity Impact
Ongoing Majority (50-90%) Slow, Significant Declines Medium Impact: 6
Stresses
Ecosystem degradation, Ecosystem conversion
Biological resource use Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals - Intentional use (species is the target) Timing Scope Severity Impact
Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
Stresses
Species mortality
Biological resource use Hunting & trapping terrestrial animals - Persecution/control Timing Scope Severity Impact
Ongoing Minority (<50%) Slow, Significant Declines Low Impact: 5
Stresses
Species mortality
Human intrusions & disturbance Work & other activities Timing Scope Severity Impact
Ongoing Minority (<50%) Unknown Unknown
Stresses
Species disturbance
Natural system modifications Other ecosystem modifications Timing Scope Severity Impact
Ongoing Minority (<50%) Slow, Significant Declines Low Impact: 5
Stresses
Reduced reproductive success
Pollution Industrial & military effluents - Type Unknown/Unrecorded Timing Scope Severity Impact
Future Minority (<50%) Slow, Significant Declines Low Impact: 3
Stresses
Ecosystem degradation, Reduced reproductive success, Species mortality
Residential & commercial development Commercial & industrial areas Timing Scope Severity Impact
Ongoing Majority (50-90%) Slow, Significant Declines Medium Impact: 6
Stresses
Ecosystem degradation, Ecosystem conversion

Utilisation
Purpose Primary form used Life stage used Source Scale Level Timing
Pets/display animals, horticulture - - International Non-trivial Recent

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Grus japonensis. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/06/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/06/2022.