Watch danc­ing cranes in Ja­pan

World of Animals - - Explore The Earth -

Travel to the marshes of Kushiro Mire on the is­land of Hokkaido, north­ern Ja­pan, to meet a bird that has in­spired gen­er­a­tions of hu­man art and cul­ture. Known lo­cally as snow bal­leri­nas, red-crowned cranes gather to­gether in win­ter to dance amidst the fall­ing snow. With dis­tinc­tive red head feath­ers and black-tipped wings stretch­ing 2.5 me­tres (8.2 feet) across, they dip, sway and strut across the ice.

One of only three species of white-feath­ered crane in the world, these birds shine bright­est in the win­ter sun. Hid­den among thick reeds dur­ing the sum­mer, the cooler months are the best time to make a trip to see them dance. Amidst fall­ing snow, pairs join to­gether to bounce, leap and spread their wings, mak­ing calls back and forth to re­new and strengthen their bonds.

At night the cranes take to the skies, head­ing off to roost in ice-free rivers. Then, as the Sun rises over the win­try land­scape, they come out in their dozens to feed. Look for them in the still wa­ters of marshes and rice pad­dies, where lo­cal peo­ple en­tice them over with meals of fish and corn.

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