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BirdNote®: Red-Crowned Cranes Dance on Hokkaido

Air Date: Week of

Red-crowned cranes dancing in Hokkaido, Japan (Photo: cyberfox, Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.1 JP)

In Japan cranes are said to be a totem of luck and longevity. BirdNote®’s Michael Stein describes their remarkable dance ritual.


CURWOOD: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Steve Curwood.


CURWOOD: In Japan cranes are said to be a totem of luck and longevity. BirdNote’s Michael Stein has more.

Red-crowned Cranes Dance on Hokkaido

[Red-crowned Crane pair unison calls]
On a snow-covered field in northern Japan, two majestic Red-crowned Cranes face one another, raise their heads toward the sky, and call in unison.
[Red-crowned Crane pair unison calls]
The slender cranes stand more than five feet tall. Their white bodies glisten like the snow. Their long, slim necks are mostly black. Their heads are topped by crimson crowns. Their bills are yellow spears.
As they call [Red-crowned Crane pair unison calls], the pair begins to dance. They bow to one another, then throw their heads over their backs, then bow again. The pair leaps into the air, at the same time raising their wings, flashing a bold banner of black. They prance, stiff-legged, then leap with wings aloft, again and again, like two immense butterflies fluttering above the snow.
[Red-crowned Crane pair unison calls]
The Red-crowned Cranes’ unison dance is a ritual the pair will perform together many times over the years, to strengthen their lifelong bond.
In Japanese tradition, the beloved crane is said to live 1,000 years and symbolizes longevity. The bird is celebrated in a remarkable feat of origami craft in which 1,000 paper cranes are cut and folded. As the tradition says: “Fold a thousand cranes and the gods will fulfill your heart’s desire.”
[Red-crowned Crane pair unison calls]
Written by Bob Sundstrom
Calls of Red-crowned Cranes recorded by David Farrow XC49791 www.xeno-canto.org/49791.
Images by Dan Hutcheson flickr.com/wildphotons, Andreas Nilsen flickr.com/solvsuper, and Francesco Veronesi flickr.com/francesco_veronesi
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2015 Tune In to Nature.org February 2015/2021 Narrator: Michael Stein

[Quotation from Peter Matthiessen The Birds of Heaven, 2001, p. 165.]
Video clip with cranes calling: http://ibc.lynxeds.com/video/red-crowned-crane-grus-japonensis/pair-calling-displaying
Video clip with cranes dancing: http://birdnote.org/video/2013/01/japanese-red-crowned-crown-courtship-dance


CURWOOD: For photos strut on over to the Living on Earth website, loe dot org.



Learn more about this Birdnote episode here


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