Our Beautiful World

African Cranes
Black Crowned Crane, Balearica pavonina
Wattled Crane, Bugeranus carunculatus
Blue Crane, Anthropoides paradiseus
Grey Crowned Crane, Balearica regulorum

Black Crowned Crane, Balearica pavonina

Black Crowned Crane, Balearica pavonina

The Black Crowned Crane, Balearica pavonina, is a bird in the crane family Gruidae. It was once called also Kaffir Crane.

It occurs in dry savannah in Africa south of the Sahara, although in nests in somewhat wetter habitats. There are two subspecies: Balearica pavonina pavonina in the west and the more numerous Balearica pavonina ceciliae in east Africa.

Black Crowned Crane, Balearica pavonina

This species and the closely related Grey Crowned Crane, Balearica regulorum, which prefers wetter habitats for foraging,
are the only cranes that can nest in trees. It is about 1 m long, has a 1.87 m wingspan and weighs about 3.6 kg.

Like all cranes, the Black Crowned Crane eats grass, insects, reptiles, and small mammals. It is endangered, especially
in the west, by habitat loss and degradation.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Crowned_Crane

The body of the Black Crowned Crane is mostly black, with distinctive white upper and under wing coverts. The head is
topped with a crown of stiff golden feathers. Cheek patches are red and white. The subspecies are most easily distinguished
by the differences in the coloration of their cheek patches. In the West African subspecies, the lower half of the cheek patch
is red; in the Sudan subspecies, the red extends into the upper half of the cheek patch. The gular sac under the chin is small
and dark. The gular sac is similar to a wattle, except that it can be inflated. Legs, toes, and bill are black.

All crowned cranes have the ability to perch because their long hind toe (hallux) allows for grasping. Males and females
are virtually indistinguishable, although males tend to be slightly larger.

Black Crowned Cranes use both wet and dry open habitats, but prefer freshwater marshes, wetter grasslands, and the
edges of water bodies. Black Crowned Cranes are considered both year-round residents and local migrants, flocking
during the dry non-breeding season.

The Black Crowned Crane's circular nest platforms are built of grasses and sedges within or along the edges of densely
vegetated wetlands. Females lay 2-5 eggs and incubation (by both sexes) lasts 28-31 days. Both parents guard the nest.
When the female leaves the nest to forage, the male often guards by perching on a nearby tree. The male will sound an
alarm call if a threat is perceived. Chicks fledge (first flight) at 60-100 days.

Illegal capture and trade for the pet industry is the most serious threat to Black Crowned Cranes. There is an ancient
tradition in West African countries such as Mali, to keep domesticated Black Crowned Cranes at household
compounds . However, in the past 30 years, international trade in the species has accelerated. Other threats facing the
Black Crowned Crane are the loss, transformation, and degradation of habitat. In West Africa, wetlands and grasslands
have been devastated by natural forces (drought) and by the intensification of human land use
(overgrazing, destruction of tree cover.)
As per 2001 their number was estimated to about 75.000.

Wattled Crane, Bugeranus carunculatus

The Wattled Crane, Bugeranus carunculatus is a large bird found in Africa south of the Sahara Desert.
It is monotypical for its genus.

At a height of up to 175 centimetres, it is the largest crane in Africa and is the second tallest species of crane, after the
Sarus Crane. The wingspan is 230–260 centimetres, the length is typically 120 centimetres and weight is 6.4–7.9 kilograms
in females, 7.5–9 kilograms in males. The back and wings are ashy gray. The feathered portion of the head is dark slate
gray above the eyes and on the crown, but is otherwise white, including the wattles, which are almost fully feathered and
hang down from under the upper throat. The breast, primaries, secondaries, and tail coverts are black. The secondaries
are long and nearly reach the ground. The upper breast and neck are white all the way to the face. The skin in front of the
eye extending to the base of the beak and tip of the wattles is red and bare of feathers and covered by small round
wart-like bumps. Wattled Cranes have long bills and black legs and toes. Males and females are virtually indistinguishable,
although males tend to be slightly larger.

Juveniles have tawny body plumage, lack the bare skin on the face, and have less prominent wattles.

The Wattled Crane occurs in eleven sub-Saharan countries in Africa, including an isolated population in the highlands of
Ethiopia. More than half of the world’s Wattled Cranes occur in Zambia, but the single largest concentration occurs in
the Okavango Delta of Botswana.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wattled_Crane

ARKive video - Wattled crane tending eggs at nest and incubating

Wattled crane tending eggs at nest and incubating
Video: BBC Natural History Unit
Audio: Natural FX and The British Library Sound Archive

Destruction, alteration, and degradation of wetland habitats constitute the most significant threats to the Wattled Crane.
Hydroelectric power projects and other water development have caused fundamental changes in the species expansive
floodplain habitats, and their most important food source Eleocharis spp. Human and livestock disturbance, powerline
collisions, mass aerial spraying of tsetse flies, and illegal collection of eggs, chicks and adults for food are also significant
threats to Wattled Cranes throughout their range.
As per 2001 their number was estimated to 13.000 - 15.000.

Blue Crane, Anthropoides paradiseus

The Blue Crane, Anthropoides paradiseus, also known as the Stanley Crane and the Paradise Crane, is the national bird of
South Africa. It is a tall, ground-dwelling bird, but is fairly small by the standards of the crane family. It is 100–120 cm tall
and weighs 4.0–6.2 kg. This crane is pale blue-gray in colour with a white crown, a pink bill, and long, dark gray wingtip
feathers which trail to the ground. Unlike most cranes, it has a relatively large head and a proportionately thin neck.

Blue Cranes, the national bird of South Africa, are endemic (only found in a certain region) to southern Africa, with more than
99% of the population occurring within South Africa. The Blue Crane is the national bird of South Africa. A small disjunct
breeding population of approximately 60 individuals exists in northern Namibia, in and around Etosha Pan. [1]

Blue Cranes are birds of the dry grassy uplands. They feed on seeds and snakes and spend little time in wetlands. They are
altitudinal migrants, generally nesting in the lower grasslands and moving down to lower altitudes for winter.
Many occupy agricultural areas.

Of the 15 species of crane, the Blue Crane has the most restricted distribution of all.

ARKive video - Blue crane - overview

Blue crane - overview
Video: Granada Wild
Audio: The British Library Sound Archive and Natural FX

While it remains common in parts of its historic range, and approx. 26,000 individuals remain, it began a sudden population decline from around 1980 and is now classified as vulnerable.

In the last two decades, the Blue Crane has largely disappeared from the Eastern Cape, Lesotho, and Swaziland.
The population in the northern Free State, western cape, Limpopo, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and North West Province
has declined by up to 1%. The majority of the remaining population is in eastern and southern South Africa, with a
small and separate population in the Etosha Pan of northern Namibia. Occasionally, isolated breeding pairs are found
in five neighboring countries.

The primary causes of the sudden decline of the Blue Crane are human population growth, the conversion of grasslands
into commercial tree plantations, and poisoning: deliberate (to protect crops) or accidental (baits intended for other
species, and as a side-effect of crop dusting).
As per 2001 their number was estimated to 15.000 - 18.000.

Grey Crowned Crane, Balearica regulorum

The Grey Crowned Crane, Balearica regulorum, is a bird in the crane family Gruidae. It occurs in dry savannah in Africa
south of the Sahara, although it nests in somewhat wetter habitats. This animal does not migrate.

There are two subspecies. The East African
Balearica regulorum gibbericeps (Crested Crane) occurs from eastern
Democratic Republic of the Congo through Uganda, of which it is the national bird, and Kenya to eastern South Africa.
It has a larger area of bare red facial skin above the white patch than the smaller nominate species,

Balearica regulorum
regulorum (South African Crowned Crane), which breeds from Angola south to South Africa.

This species and the closely related Black Crowned Crane are the only cranes that can roost in trees, because of a long hind
toe that can grasp branches.

The Grey Crowned Crane has a breeding display involving dancing, bowing, and jumping. It has a booming call which involves
inflation of the red gular sac. It also makes a honking sound quite different from the trumpeting of other crane species.

The nest is a platform of grass and other plants in tall wetland vegetation. There have been observations of nestbuilding
in trees. The Grey Crowned Crane lays a clutch of 2-5 eggs. Incubation is performed by both sexes and lasts 28–31 days.
Chicks fledge at 56–100 days.

The Grey Crowned Crane is about 1 m tall and weighs 3.5 kg. Its body plumage is mainly grey. The wings are also
predominantly white, but contain feathers with a range of colours. The head has a crown of stiff golden feathers.
The sides of the face are white, and there is a bright red inflatable throat pouch. The bill is relatively short and grey,
and the legs are black. The sexes are similar, although males tend to be slightly larger. Young birds are greyer than adults,
with a feathered buff face.

Although the Grey Crowned Crane remains common over much of its range, it faces threats to its habitat due to drainage, overgrazing, and pesticide pollution. Their total number today is going down from about 100.000 (1990) to 90.000 (2001)

Like all cranes, it feeds on insects and other invertebrates, reptiles, small mammals, as well as grass seeds.

The 26th meeting of the Animals Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) stated on March 27th, 2012:
Scientists expressed serious concern about trade from certain African countries in grey-crowned and blackcrowned cranes (Balearica regulorum and Balearica pavonina), large waterbirds that typically inhabit open land near inland water bodies. International trade in cranes consists principally of live, wild-taken birds, with trade in captive-bred specimens
also reported. Between 2000 and 2010, trade in some 1,300 live birds has been recoded.
Source: http://allafrica.com/stories/201203221101.html

ARKive video - Grey crowned-crane - overview

Grey crowned-crane - overview
BBC Natural History Unit, Natural FX

When nothing else stated, all pictures courtesy of
International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, Wisconsin. www.savingcranes.org


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