Conservation Status Endangered
The body feathers of the grey crowned crane are mostly grey with the wings having a white band which is streaked with yellow. On the neck the feathers are lighter than the rest of their body. Their name comes from the yellow crown of feathers on their head which are tipped with black. Their check has a white patch on the bottom portion and on the top it is red. The other portions of the face are black. Their bill is short and grey. Their legs are long and grey. These assist them when they are climbing through the tall grasses. On the bottom of their chin is a gular sack which is red and can be inflated
Unlike all but one of the other crane species these animals can roost in trees due to their prehensile hind toe which allows them to grasp branches.
Grey crowned cranes stand 1m (3.3ft) tall and weigh 3.5kg (7.7lbs). Their wingspan is approximately 2m (6.5ft). Males are slightly larger than females.
An average wild crane lives for 22 years but some reports suggest that they may live for up to 60 years in captive situations.
Grey crowned cranes are omnivores. They mainly forage for grass tips, seeds, insects, small vertebrates, eggs of aquatic animals, small fish and invertebrates. They will also enter croplands in search of groundnuts, soybeans, maize and millet.
This species co-opts with large herbivores. These flush out insects as they walk which the cranes can then eat.
Africa is the native home of the grey crowned crane. They can be in Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Congo, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Most of their time is spent in grasslands and wetlands, such as marshes, rivers, flood-plains and savannahs, close to bodies of water. When feeding they will also travel out onto the savannahs. They will also venture into agricultural land. Their territory features trees where they can roost come nightfall.
Breeding may occur year round but there is a peak from December to February in response to rainfall. Pairs are monogamous and mate for life. When courting a partner they perform what is referred to as a “nuptial dance.” This involves a range of bobs, bows, jumps and calls made by inflating the gular sack. Either gender can initiate this.
Nests are made near standing water. This consists of a platform of grass and other plants. This may measure between 50 and 86cm in diameter. Into this nest two to three eggs will be deposited.
28 to 31 days later these eggs hatch. Chicks develop incredibly fast and within 12 hours they are swimming and floating. A day later they start eating and after two days they are following their parents around to help them find food. This occurs in the marshland where they can be hidden instead of the savannah.
Flocks of birds may include 30-150 birds. Outside of the breeding season pairs will preen each other to strengthen their bond.
These birds do not move around enough to be considered migratory but they do change location seasonally to make sure they are near water and food.
Chicks use a sharp shrill “peeep” to communicate with their parents. The parents will reciprocate with a “purring” sound. They can also make a “oouuw” and “ya-oou-goo-lung.”
Due to their ability to perch in trees the grey crowned crane can avoid most predators. One species that does occasionally attack them is domestic dogs.
The grey crowned crane is Uganda’s national bird and is featured on their flag and coat of arms.
This species is also referred to as the blue-necked or royal crane on occasion.
By Martin Leitner (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
I, Chrumps [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons