Bio Facts: Crane, East African Grey-crowned
East African Crowned Crane
Balearcia regulorum gibbericeps
Congo, Uganda, and Kenya to central Tanzania.
Marshes and grassy flatlands near rivers and lakes.
They are named for the striking, straw colored bristle-like feathers on the top of their heads. They are mostly slate gray with white upper and under wing coverts and a black head. The legs and bill are black, eyes are light grey, facial skin is white and red, and throat lappet is scarlet.
20-40 years, like most cranes.
About 2 years.
Plants, seeds, grain, insects, frogs, worms, snakes, small fish and the eggs of aquatic animals.
CITES Appendix II
They are noted for their spectacular dances which involve head-bobbing, wing fluttering, leaps and bows. This is the only crane to perch in trees. They fly with the neck extended forward and legs stretched horizontally behind the tail, except in cold weather when they tuck their feet under their breast feathers. Stamping their feet as they walk, they flush out insects which are quickly caught and eaten. Also, they associate with grazing herbivores, perhaps to benefit by increased number of prey, and also from prey items disturbed. They are social and gregarious during most of the year, living in pairs or family parties and congregating in flocks of up to 100 birds. They emit a trumpeting call of “u-wang u-wang” and also a guttural grunt. During the breeding season, pairs of cranes construct a large nest of grasses and vegetation on marshy ground, in trees, in shallow water or riverbeds. Two to three glossy, dirty-white 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.
The cranes’ long legs and excellent peripheral vision enable them to spot predators in the tall savanna grasses.
Some of the African people living among the cranes believe these birds bring rain - others incorporate the crane dances into their own rituals.
Many swamps and marshes where crowned cranes nest are being drained for agriculture. Crowned cranes are popular attractions in zoos and are often victims of illegal trade.
Jacksonville Zoo History:
East African Crowned Cranes have been at the Jacksonville Zoo since our first pair on record arrived in January 1968. Through 2005, we have hatched 65 chicks at the Zoo.
Above: Parent crowned cranes displaying to drive rhinos away from their chicks seen left of the palm tree in the Plains of East Africa exhibit.