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Kushiro Crane Watching
Discover the elaborate mating dance of the famous tancho cranes
The Kushiro Marsh is home to many bird species, but none as famous as the tancho cranes (red-crowned cranes). Historically a famous symbol of Japan, these beautiful creatures were thought to be extinct at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1924, a small flock of around a dozen cranes was discovered deep in the Kushiro Marsh, and a conservation movement ensured their survival—there are more than 650 breeding pairs today.
The Kushiro Marsh is a perfect wintering area, thanks to its undisturbed wilderness and the comparable lack of heavy snow in the winter, though this is relative—there is still a lot of snow! All winter you can see the cranes feeding at several places across the region, or at the Kushiro Tancho Japanese Crane Reserve, where birds are fed when snow covers the ground. From December to late February, you can see the elaborate mating dance—a seemingly choreographed courtship display performed on Hokkaido’s snow. In spring you might get to see just-hatched chicks.