KINGDOM: Animalia (Animals)
PHYLUM: Chordata (Possessing a notochord)
CLASS: Aves (Birds)
ORDER: Gruiformes (Cranes)
FAMILY: Gruidae (Cranes)
SUB-FAMILY: Gruinae (Cranes)
GENUS: Bugeranus (Wattled Crane)
SPECIES: Grus carunculatus (Wattled Crane)
The Wattled Crane occurs in a vastly restricted range within the eastern higher rainfall regions of South Africa, with concentrations in the Mpumalanga Highlands and the midlands to southern parts of KwaZulu-Natal. Small numbers of breeding pairs are also present within the Wakkerstroom region, the Eastern Cape as well as the north-eastern Free State. Wattled Cranes no longer occur within the Western Cape and Swaziland. The largest population occurs in south-central Africa (Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zaire, Tanzania and Zimbabwe). A small population occurs in Ethiopia.
The wattled crane is a large grey, black and white bird with a distinct red facial patch and wattles hanging either side of chin. Males and females look alike and both have wattles but males tend to be a bit larger in body size.
Wattled cranes are birds of the Open wetlands, moist grasslands and seasonal floodplains.
Wattled cranes feed mainly on water plants including the tubers and rhizomes of sedges and water lilies in wetlands, while the diet in agricultural land may include insects, grains and grass seed.
Wattled cranes are monogamous (having one partner at a time) and form life-long breeding pairs. During breeding season, they display behaviours such as bowing, jumping, running and tossing plant items. They dance with raised wings between mates during the courtship, but also with other members of the flock in social behaviour. During the displays, the male spreads its wings before it for a short run followed by a jump into the air. The bare red facial skin is flushed and the wattles are elongated. The pair-bonds last for life. This species breeds in wetlands. Reproductive rates both in captivity and wild are low.
Pairs become territorial, maintain and defend the territory with threat postures and attacks at intruders.
Each year, breeding pairs return to their favourite breeding spots. They usually lay one egg, but may have two, which are then incubated for 40 days. Fledging occurs when the chick is 100 days old. Their life span in the wild is 20-30 years.
Wattled Cranes are preyed upon by Jackals but humans are also a threat.
Human activities such as drainage of wetlands for agricultural practises as well as industrialisation, dam building and irrigation result in low water levels. Human activities happening close to breeding sites disturb the birds and this results in low breeding success.
Did you know?
- The wattled crane is the largest and rarest of the six species of crane in Africa and the most dependent on wetlands
- It also has the longest incubation period of all cranes