East African Grey Crowned Crane
The grey crowned crane is about 1 metre tall, weighs 3.5 kg and has a wingspan of 2 m. Its body plumage is mainly grey. The wings are predominantly white, but contain feathers with a range of colours, with a distinctive black patch at the very top. The head has a crown of striking golden feathers. The sides of the face are white, and there is a bright red inflatable throat patch. The bill is relatively short and grey and the legs are black. They have long legs for wading through the grasses and shallow bodies of water.
The grey crowned crane has a breeding display involving dancing, bowing, and jumping. It has a booming call that involves inflation of the red gular sac. It also makes a honking sound quite different from the trumpeting of other crane species.
Grey crowned cranes are omnivorous - eating vegetation, seeds, grain, insects, frogs, worms, snakes, small fish, and aquatic animals' eggs. Stamping their feet as they walk, they flush out insects that are quickly caught and eaten. The birds also associate with grazing herbivores, benefiting from the ability to grab prey items disturbed by other animals passing through long grasses.
Although the grey crowned crane remains common over some of its range, it faces threats to its habitat due to drainage, overgrazing, and pesticide pollution. Their global population is estimated to be between 58,000 and 77,000 individuals. In 2012 it was uplisted to endangered by the IUCN
Primitive species of crowned cranes date back in the fossil record to the Eocene Epoch! (56 to 33.9 million years ago).