In the grassy and wetland regions of Africa lies one of the largest birds in the world known as the African crowned crane. These birds are known as an international symbol of peace and are treasured by the people of Africa. Interestingly, the two prestigious variants of this crane hold national importance, with the grey-crowned crane being the national bird of Uganda and the black-crowned crane being the national bird of Nigeria.
True bird glamour
The African crowned crane is perhaps one of the most attractive cranes in its family. Its royal appearance is owed greatly to the crown-like golden, rigid feathers atop its head. With enormous red and white cheek patches behind its eyes, the African crowned crane is a true sight to behold. Its body is covered with black or grey plumage with hints of gold and white tail feathers that glisten under the sun. These magnificent feathers are balanced upon frail legs with appendages that allow them to cling onto perches.
Enjoying the quiet life
The crowned crane resides in the tropical Savannah of sub-Saharan Africa, preferably away from human disturbances. They can fly for several miles switching biomes, from Sudan to Ethiopia in the east and Senegal to The Gambia on the west coast. These birds look for similar biomes depending on the abundance and distribution of food and nest sites. These cranes prefer settling in shallow wetlands, flooded marshes, and grasslands, where they can feed on plants, insects, and small fish.
They are monogamous which means that pairing with a mate isn’t only about progeny. These birds like developing a bond with their mate and will select a mate during the mating season which lasts from July until October. The pair are known to do almost everything together, from building nests to taking turns in incubating the eggs for about 31 days. They are also known to preen each other.
Flamboyant and expressive
These affectionate birds love to dance during periods of courtship and even during the off-season. They will put on flamboyant displays by spreading their wings up to 2 meters wide, hopping about with accompanying calls that sound like low and mellow honks, all to express their joy and affection for their mate.
The crown at risk
The main threat to this bird is the degradation of its habitats, occurring through droughts, drainage of wetlands, conversions for agriculture, dam construction, and overgrazing by livestock. The illegal trapping, trade, and domestication have also declined their population, pushing this magnificent bird to endangerment.
The IUCN Red List status has deemed these birds as endangered. Their population trend is also declining as these cranes are unable to survive till adulthood.
Written by Hamzah Rajput (INTI International University)