International Crane Foundation


Wattled Crane

Bugeranus carunculatus

HEIGHT: 172 cm, 6 ft
WEIGHT: 7.8 kg, 14 lbs
TREND: Declining
STATUS: IUCN: VU; Cites Appendix II; CMS II


In Ethiopia, Wattled Cranes take advantage of beetle larvae and other invertebrates that occur in the spoil heaps created by the giant molerat!


Wattled Cranes stand six feet tall and weigh fourteen pounds. The back and wings are ashy gray. The feathered portion of the head is dark slaty gray above the eyes and on the crown, but is otherwise white, including the wattles, which are almost fully feathered and hang down from under the upper throat. The breast, primaries, secondaries, and tail coverts are black. The secondaries are long and nearly reach the ground. The upper breast and neck are white all the way to the face. The skin in front of the eye extending to the base of the beak and tip of the wattles is red and bare of feathers and covered by small round wart-like bumps. Wattled Cranes have long bills and black legs and toes. Males and females are virtually indistinguishable although males tend to be slightly larger.

Juveniles have tawny body plumage, lack the bare skin on the face, and have less prominent wattles. Download FREE Wattled Crane images.


The Wattled Crane occurs in eleven sub-Saharan countries in Africa, including an isolated population in the highlands of Ethiopia. More than half of the world’s Wattled Cranes occur in Zambia. The single largest concentration occurs in the Okavango Delta of Botswana. Wattled Cranes are thought to have historically ranged over a much larger area including coastal West Africa.


Click to view range map.


All cranes are omnivorous. The principal food of the Wattled Crane is aquatic vegetation, including the tubers and rhizomes of submerged sedges and water lilies. In particular, Wattled Cranes depend heavily on the sedge Eleocharis spp. In dryer upland habitats, Wattled Cranes forage for grain, grass seeds, and insects, and they make use of agricultural fields when convenient.


Destruction, alteration, and degradation of wetland habitats constitute the most significant threats to the Wattled Crane. Hydroelectric power projects and other water development have caused fundamental changes in the species expansive floodplain habitats, and their most important food source Eleocharis spp. Human and livestock disturbance, powerline collisions, mass aerial spraying tsetse flies, and illegal collection of eggs, chicks and adults for food are also significant threats to Wattled Cranes throughout their range.

ICF in Action

The African Wattled Crane Program (AWAC) is a partnership between the International Crane Foundation, the Endangered Wildlife Trust (South Africa), and organizations and individuals in the eleven nations where Wattled Cranes occur. The program seeks to conserve Wattled Cranes and their habitats by promoting cooperation in and among African nations in partnership with people who depend on these same habitats. AWAC conservation programs include research, management, capacity building, and education/awareness. From 2000-2003, AWAC partners conducted an intensive, range-wide survey to assess the global status and population of the species. Major field programs for Wattled Cranes are underway in Mozambique, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and South Africa. To learn more about conservation programs for the Wattled Crane, click here.

Species accounts derived from:

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.