Once considered among the most secure of all cranes, Grey Crowned Cranes are rapidly declining across most of their range – action is needed now to save this species from extinction.
Scientific Name: Balearica regulorum
Subspecies: Balearica regulorum gibbericeps (East African), Balearica regulorum regulorum (South African)
Height: 3 ft; Wingspan: 3.7 ft
Field Marks: Adults - gray body, white wings with feathers ranging from white to brown to gold, head topped with stiff golden feathers, white cheek patches, red gular sack under chin, black legs and feet, short, gray bill. Juveniles – grayish body, brown nape, buffy face, crown spiky and golden buff.
Population: 30,000 (South African 12,000, East African 18,000)
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Status: Endangered, population has declined 50-79% across most of the species’ range over the last 45 years (excluding South Africa, where the population has remained stable).
Range: The Grey Crowned Crane’s range stretches from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, and Kenya to southeastern South Africa. They are non-migratory, but undertake variable local and seasonal movements, and are most abundant in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.
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Diet: Tips of grasses, seeds, insects and other invertebrates, small vertebrates, groundnuts, soybeans, maize and millet.
Vocalizations: Loud, honking call.
Threats: Live trade from the wild to captive facilities around the world is a major cause for their dramatic decline. Loss or deterioration of critical wetland and grassland habitat due to drainage, livestock overgrazing and heavy pesticide applications, along with power line collisions and inadvertent poisoning are also threats.
ICF in Action
Through the International Crane Foundation/Endangered Wildlife Trust Partnership for African Cranes, we are working with local conservationists to protect Grey Crowned Cranes in Africa and address the growing threat of illegal trade in the species.
African Crane Trade
The African Crane Trade project focuses on reducing the impact of the captive crane trade on wild cranes by targeting supply within Africa and demand both within Africa and globally. Our efforts focus on understanding the complex supply and demand chains that affect cranes; creating awareness of the status of Africa’s resident cranes and the threat that trade poses to wild populations; and advocating for changes in policies and legislation that govern the trade in cranes, both locally and internationally. Click here to learn how you can help.
ICF/EWT are partnering with local conservation organizations in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda to support community-based conservation efforts in Zimbabwe and the Lake Victoria Basin. In Kenya and Uganda, we are working with local conservationists to promote community initiatives focusing on education and wetland conservation. Maurice Wanjala, founder of the Kipsaina Cranes and Wetland Conservation Group in Kenya, is working with local communities to conserve wetlands along the Kipsaina River, an important area for Grey Crowned Cranes. In Uganda, Jimmy Muheebwa, Project Coordinator for Nature Uganda, works with nearly 200 sites in the country, promoting conservation and restoration of wetlands critical to both cranes and people. Jimmy’s projects include the restoration of papyrus in degraded wetlands, with the goal of developing products from the papyrus to support local populations.
In Rwanda, our efforts focus on Rugezi Marsh, which shelters the largest breeding population of Grey Crowned Cranes in the country. ICF/EWT are partnering with the Albertine Rift Conservation Society and the Kitabi College of Conservation and Environmental Management to investigate opportunities for ecotourism, large-scale papyrus reintroduction for the sustainable production of baskets, roofing material and floor mats (as is being done in Uganda), as well as carbon sequestration benefits that would support marsh conservation and restoration.
Learn more about Grey Crowned Cranes:
Johnsgard PA. 1983. Cranes of the world. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Meine CD, Archibald GW. 1996. The cranes: status survey and conservation action plan. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.