South African Grey Crowned Crane
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Grey Crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum) is a bird in the crane family Gruidae. It occurs in dry savannah in Africa south of the Sahara, although it nests in somewhat wetter habitats. This animal does not migrate.
There are two subspecies. The East African B. r. gibbericeps (Crested Crane) occurs from eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo through Uganda, of which it is the national bird, and Kenya to eastern South Africa. It has a larger area of bare red facial skin above the white patch than the smaller nominate species, B. r. regulorum (South African Crowned Crane), which breeds from Angola south to South Africa.
This species and the closely related Black Crowned Crane are the only cranes that can roost in trees, because of a long hind toe that can grasp branches. This habit, amongst other things, is a reason why the relatively small Balearica cranes are believed to closely resemble the ancestral members of the Gruidae.
The Grey Crowned Crane has a breeding display involving dancing, bowing, and jumping. It has a booming call which involves inflation of the red gular sac. It also makes a honking sound quite different from the trumpeting of other crane species.
The nest is a platform of grass and other plants in tall wetland vegetation. The Grey Crowned Crane lays a clutch of 2-5 eggs. Incubation is performed by both sexes and lasts 28-31 days. Chicks fledge at 56-100 days.
The Grey Crowned Crane is about 1 m (3.3 ft) tall and weighs 3.5 kg (7.7 lbs). Its body plumage is mainly grey. The wings are also predominantly white, but contain feathers with a range of colours. The head has a crown of stiff golden feathers. The sides of the face are white, and there is a bright red inflatable throat pouch. The bill is relatively short and grey, and the legs are black. The sexes are similar, although males tend to be slightly larger. Young birds are greyer than adults, with a feathered buff face.
Although the Grey Crowned Crane remains common over much of its range, it faces threats to its habitat due to drainage, overgrazing, and pesticide pollution.
Like all cranes, it feeds on insects and other invertebrates, reptiles, small mammals, as well as grass seeds.
The Grey Crowned Crane is the national bird of Uganda and features in the country's flag and coat of arms.
Information Source Wikipedia
Balearica regulorum regulorum (South African)
The body of the Grey Crowned Crane is mainly gray. The wings are predominantly white, but contain feathers with colors ranging from white to brown to gold. The head is topped with a crown of stiff golden feathers. Cheek patches are white, and a red gular sack is present under the chin. The gular sack is similar to a wattle, except that it can be inflated. Legs and toes are black. The bill is short and dark gray. All crowned cranes have the ability to perch because their long hind toe (hallux) allows for grasping. The subspecies are most easily distinguished by their facial features. The East African crowned crane has a larger area of bare red skin above the white cheek patch than does the South African crowned crane. Males and females are virtually indistinguishable, although males tend to be slightly larger.
Grey Crowned Cranes require mixed wetland-grassland habitats. They typically nest within or on the edges of wetlands, while foraging in wetlands, nearby grasslands, and croplands. Grey Crowned Cranes begin their unison display in varied ways. The main vocalization is a booming call where the crane will inflate the gular sac underneath its chin and push the air out. This calling is done with the head laid against the top of the neck and then tilted back. The crane also produces peculiar honks that are quite different from the loud, bugling calls of other crane species that have much longer coiled tracheas. All cranes engage in dancing, which includes various behaviors such as head pumping, bowing, jumping, running, stick or grass tossing, and wing flapping. Dancing can occur at any age and is commonly associated with courtship, however, it is generally believed to be a normal part of motor development for cranes and can serve to thwart aggression, relieve tension, and strengthen the pair bond.
Nesting usually occurs in wetlands where the vegetation is of a significant height to conceal the cranes on their nests. Nests consist of uprooted grasses and sedges piled and flattened into a circular platform. Grey Crowned Cranes have the largest average clutch size (2-5) of any cranes. Clutch size can vary with altitude. Incubation is performed by both sexes and lasts 28-31 days. While rearing chicks, adult birds will sometimes hide their young in wetlands in the evening, and then fly to roost in trees. Chicks fledge (first flight) at 56-100 days.
All cranes are omnivorous. Principal foods of the Grey Crowned Crane include tips of grasses, seeds, insects, and other invertebrates, and small vertebrates. They also forage in croplands for groundnuts, soybeans, maize, and millet. The Grey Crowned Crane's generalist feeding strategy allows the species to adapt to human settlement.
Although the species remains common over much of its historic range, it faces widespread and increasing threats to its habitat, particularly in the species stronghold of east Africa due to drainage, livestock overgrazing, and heavy pesticide applications. Other threats include hunting and live-trapping. Information Source Johnsgard PA. 1983. Cranes of the world. Bloomington: Indiana University Press . . and The International Crane Foundation http://www.savingcranes.org/grey-crowned-crane.html
The Grey Crowned Crane is the most abundant species of the African cranes, but declines occurred, due to degradation of the habitat by human developments, changes due to the drought in several regions, loss of the breeding areas due to drainage of wetlands and overgrazing, pet-trade, egg-collecting, hunting and use of pesticides.
This species is evaluated as VULNERABLE.
This beautiful male South African Grey Crowned Crane was photographed in Kaanapali on Maui
Kaanapali Maui Hawaii
Photo Copyright (C) Sharon Mau
January 21st, 2012
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