African Crowned Crane

African Crowned Crane

Scientific Classification

Common Name
African crowned crane
Genus Species
Balearica pavonina (of a peacock; referring to the crown or crest)

Fast Facts

African crowned cranes are large, long-legged birds, with straight bills, long necks, and an elevated hind toe.  They have bare pink or red and white cheek patches and a golden feathery 'crown' protruding from the back of the head.
110 to 130 cm (43.3 to 51 in.)
3 to 4 kg (6.6 to 8.8 lbs.)
This species is a generalist omnivore. Its primary food source is small grain crops (45%), with small plants, small invertebrates, and small vertebrates also featuring in the diet. It will take insects, mollusks, millipedes, crustaceans, fish, amphibians, reptiles, seed heads, grass tips, and agricultural grain.
22 to 25 days. 
Clutch Size
2 to 4 eggs. Chicks are able to fly when they are 35 to 40 days old. Nests are built on the ground in densely vegetated wetlands.
Sexual Maturity
No data
Life Span
Up to 25 years in zoos; wild life span unknown
The African crowned crane occurs in scattered populations through the savanna zones of Sudan and Guinea with records from as far south as the Democratic Republic of Congo, but was once more numerous and widespread.
This species is found in wet and dry open habitats, but prefers freshwater marshes, wet grasslands, and the peripheries of water-bodies.  In South Sudan it is especially found in areas with water up to 1 m in depth, and knee-high to hip-high vegetation dominated by Cyperus, Eleocharis, Scirpus, Setaria, Cynodon and various leguminous and rosaceous plants.
The western sub-population (B. p. pavonina) was estimated to number around 15,000 individuals in 2004, and the eastern sub-population (B. p. ceciliae) is less well-known, though estimated at 28,000 to 55,000 individuals in the same year. This gives a total population estimate of 43,000 to 70,000 individuals, roughly equivalent to 28,000 to 47,000 mature individuals.
IUCN: Vulnerable
CITES: Appendix II
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

Unlike most cranes, African crowned cranes lack folds in their windpipes making their voices very different from other cranes.

African crowned cranes occasionally roost in trees, a trait not seen in other cranes.

These cranes are often considered the living fossils of the crane family. They were able to survive the Ice Age in the savannas of Africa.

Ecology and Conservation

African crowned cranes are important to the wetlands they live in as grazers on vegetation and as predators of small animals.

Habitat loss and degradation are significant threats, occurring through drought, wetland drainage and conversion for agriculture, overgrazing, fire, agricultural and industrial pollution, industrial construction, and dam construction.

The African Crowned Crane has experienced a rapid population decline which is predicted to continue into the future, primarily due to habitat loss and trapping for domestication or the illegal international trade.

This species may have already disappeared from some countries like Nigeria.


Gotch, A.F. Birds - Their Latin Names Explained. Poole, Dorst: Blandford Press, 1981.

Perrins, Dr. Christopher M. Birds: Their Life, Their Ways, Their World. New York: The Reader's Digest Association, Inc., 1979.

Perrins, Dr. Christopher M. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Birds: The Definitive Reference to Birds of the World. New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1990.

Perrins, Dr. Christopher M., Middleton, Dr. Alex L.A. eds. The Encyclopedia of Birds. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1985.

BirdLife International. 2016. Balearica pavonina. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22692039A93334339. Downloaded on 31 October 2018.