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East African Crowned Crane

Balearica regulorum gibbericeps


Gruidae, crane family

Conservation Status:

Vulnerable, IUCN


Uganda and Kenya to Northern Zimbabwe and Northern Mozambique


Grasslands close to bodies of water


All cranes are noted for their spectacular dances, which involve head bobbing, wing fluttering, leaps and bows.

Tall, majestic bird with a “crown” of stiff golden feathers and large white cheek patches with a small red patch at the top. They are slate gray with white upper and under wing coverts, black legs and bill. Adult height is approximately 3 feet. An omnivore, the crowned crane eats plants, seeds, grain, insects, frogs, worms, snakes, small fish and eggs of water animals. Stamping their feet as they walk they flush out insects, which are quickly caught and eaten.

Moving about in flocks of up to 100, roosting in trees or in shallow riverbeds, they are social and gregarious most of the year. During the breeding season, pairs of cranes construct a large nest of grasses and vegetation on marshy ground or in shallow water. Two to three eggs are laid and both parents take turns incubating them for 30 days. Chicks are precocial: can run as soon as they hatch and fly in 10 weeks.Both sexes dance, and immature birds join the adults. Dancing is an integral part of courtship, but also may be done at any time of the year. The unique head feathers resemble a papyrus plant and may help camouflage the cranes as they feed.

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