Black Crowned Crane

Balearica pavonina

Species Information

Our black crowned crane pair are hard to miss with their iconic golden crown!

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This tall bird is found in shallow wetlands and mixed grasslands across sub-Saharan Africa. In West Africa, they prefer flooded croplands and rice fields. In East Africa they more frequently inhabit wet meadows, rivers, and still water areas, such as ponds, lakes, and marshes.

The black crowned crane is largely covered with a black plumage with gold and white wing feathers. The most iconic feature is the golden crown on top of the head, made of stiff and bristle golden feathers. On top of the head is a golden crown. Unusually, when compared to other crane species, crowned cranes lack folds in their windpipes. This makes their voices very different from other cranes!

These omnivores will basically eat anything small enough that they can catch. They primarily eat grain crops, but their diet also includes insects, crustaceans, fish, and small reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. They also eat grass, seeds, and fruit.

22-25 years in the wild.

Black crowned cranes are usually crepuscular feeders, feeding in the early mornings and late afternoons. They are also generally gregarious, meaning they forage in large groups. They usually feed on items on the surface, but may stamp their feet to disturb potential nearby underground prey.

These cranes mate for life. During the mating season from July – October, the birds perform extravagant courtship displays. This ‘dance’ routine involves accompanying booming calls and mutually repeated bowing before the pair begin hopping, running, and jumping in the air. The female often roosts in trees, and will lay 2-4 eggs which are incubated by both parents for about 28-31 days.

Vulnerable; the black crowned crane population is decreasing, largely due to illegal poaching, and habitat loss due to agricultural expansion.

They are the national bird of Nigeria!