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This large crane is identifiable by the large circle of bare, red skin around each eye. It stands out from the slate-grey feathers that cover most of the body, and the white throat and white stripe running from the crown to the nape of the neck. The legs are long and pinkish in color.
During the breeding season, the white-naped crane is found in wetlands along river valleys, grassy marshes, wet sedge meadows, and on islands of steppe lakes with reed beds. In autumn, they feed in dry areas in river valleys and wheat fields in Russia and Mongolia. In winter, its habitat consists of freshwater lakes, farmland, and sometimes coastal flats.