East African Crowned Crane

East African Crowned Crane

Scientific Classification

Common Name
East African crowned crane, gray-crowned crane
Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Gruiformes
Family
Gruidae
Genus Species
Balearica regulorum gibbericeps

Fast Facts

Description
The East African crowned crane is slate gray in color with an elongated neck and body. The primary and secondary feathers are dark gray to black with chestnut markings. The cheek patches are bare with white on the bottom and a small red patch on top. A large straw-yellow crown covers head.
The male is slightly taller than the female
Size
Approximately 91–120 cm tall (36–48 in.)
Weight
Approximately 3–4 kg (6.6–8.8 lb.)
Diet
Omnivorous; feeds on plants, worms, insects, lizards, and small mammals
Incubation
30 days
Clutch Size
2–3 eggs
Fledging Duration
50-90 days
Sexual Maturity
Approximately 3 years; full adult eye color and face and neck coloration are not reached until 20–24 months old
Life Span
Approximately 22 years; considerably longer in managed situations
Range
Found in eastern sub-Saharan Africa and south to South Africa
Habitat
Inhabits wet and dry open habitats, but prefer grasslands near water
Population
Global: Estimated at less than 100,000
Status 
IUCN: Not listed
CITES: Appendix II
USFWS:  Not listed

Fun Facts

  1. Crowned cranes are usually found in pairs, but have been seen singularly and in small flocks (3–20 individuals). There have been only a few observations of groups of 51–150 individuals.
  2. A successful pair of mated crowned cranes will maintain their family structure for as long as 9–10 months. After which, the young birds tend to join together in flocks, spending much of their time feeding in fields.
  3. Crowned cranes are the only cranes that roost in trees. All of their chicks hatch at the same time as well, which is uncommon among cranes.
  4. Courtship is still poorly understood, however, scientists believe it is all in the mating dance between the male and female. The dance consists of bobbing, flapping wings, and swinging circles around each other.
  5. The male is the principle defender of the pair, calling a loud warning to other cranes in his territory.

Ecology and Conservation

While East African crowned cranes are not currently listed as a protected species, its populations are still vulnerable. The numbers and range of these birds have been reduced significantly over the last two decades. The principle threat these cranes face is the loss, transformation, and degradation of its habitat. Inefficient law enforcement and lack of long-term population monitoring leave the species in jeopardy.

Stronger national wetland protection policies and large-scale land development assessment would help the cranes case. Most of all, mass education about the cranes plight would provide the greatest benefit.


Bibliography

Ellis, D. H., Gee, G. F., and C. Mirande. Cranes: Their Biology, Husbandry, and Conservation. Dept. Of Int., Nat'l Bio. Serv., Washington, D.C. 1996.

Johnsgard, P. A. Cranes of the World. Indiana University Press, Bloomington. 1983.

Perrins, C.M. and A. Middleton. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Birds. New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1990.

Williams, J. G. A Field Guide to the Birds of East and Central Africa. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. 1963.

International Crane Foundation: savingcranes.org/species/gr-crwnd.asp