- Status: Vulnerable
- Known as: Black Crowned Crane, Sudan crowned crane, dark crowned crane, and West African crowned crane.
- Estimated numbers left in the wild: 40,000 but declining.
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The black-crowned crane is a stately, elegant bird covered with black or nearly black plumage. There are white and gold sections on the wings and white and red skin patches on the face in the back of the eye. A small gular pouch beneath the head is capable of producing booming noises when inflated.
The head is graced with a golden crown. The legs and feet are black. This crane stands approximately 104 centimeters, with the male slightly larger than the female. Black-crowned cranes will form flocks during the dry season but are territorial while nesting.
See Related: Andean Flamingo
Black-crowned cranes are true omnivores and will literally eat anything small enough that they cannot escape it. The cranes will eat vegetative matter such as seeds and fruit and insects, snails, and small vertebrates such as lizards, amphibians, crabs, and snakes.
See Related: Amsterdam Albatross
These cranes prefer to live close to water sources such as lakes and marshes, but they will tolerate drier conditions if necessary. The wet season is also the breeding season for the cranes, generally from May through November or December.
Black-crowned cranes prefer to nest near water and will construct their nests out of rushes or grasses. Up to 5 eggs will be laid, and both parents will participate in incubation and rearing the young. The male crane will often keep a lookout for danger from the vantage of a tree, alerting his family with a call if he detects an intruder.
While dancing is often a part of the courtship rituals of black-crowned cranes, cranes of all ages dance, whether it is the breeding season or not. It is thought that young birds dance to build up strength and coordination.
See Related: Yellow-Eared Parrot
The black-crowned crane is found in the savannah band across sub-Saharan Africa, from the west coast of the continent, including Gambia and Senegal, to Sudan and Ethiopia. The range of the crane was previously much more extensive.
See Related: Environmental Organizations in Africa
Black-crowned cranes face many threats to their existence, generally because of human activities. Habitat loss and destruction are probably the worst, with the draining of wetlands curtailing not only feeding areas but nesting grounds.
The cranes are also subject to damage by industrial development and pollution and increased agriculture. The construction of dams destroys the shallow water that the cranes depend upon for food – they are unable to hunt for food in water over 1 meter deep.
The heavy use of pesticides has had a dramatic negative impact on crane populations, and these birds are also still subject to hunting. The drought that has plagued this part of Africa for years also affects the number of black-crowned cranes.
See Related: Endangered vs. Threatened vs. Extinct Species
Although black-crowned cranes have received official protection in the countries where they are found, enforcement of the protection is nearly non-existent.
They are listed under CITES so that trade in the cranes is prevented at that level. National parks in Senegal and Cameroon do offer the cranes a relatively undisturbed habitat. Captive breeding programs are in effect, but it has been found that black-crowned cranes do not reproduce well in captivity.
See Related: How To Be An Environmentalist
International Crane Foundation
The International Crane Foundation works to protect cranes worldwide and their habitats, including the Black Crowned Crane.