Kingdoms / Animalia / Craniata / Aves / Gruiformes / Gruidae / Grus / Species

< > Balearica pavonina - Black crowned-crane (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)

Balearica pavonina - Black crowned cranes. Click here for full-page view with caption. black crowned crane head Black crowned crane distribution map. Click here for full-page view with caption. Crowned cranes Balearica spp. distribution map. Click here for full-page view with caption.










Return to top of page

General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Black-necked crowned crane
  • Dark crowned crane
  • West African crowned crane (Balearica pavonina pavonina)
  • Sudan crowned crane (Balearica pavonina ceciliae)
  • Balearic crowned crane (B479.w16)
  • Balearic crane (B483)
  • Grue couronnée (French)
  • Grue couronnée noire (French) (B97)
  • Kronenkranich (German) (B97)
  • Gruella Coronnada Cuellinegra (Spanish)
  • De Kroonvogel (B474)
  • The crowned African crane (B474)
  • L'Oiseau royal (B474)
  • Ardea pavonina (B474, B483)
  • Grus pavonina (B474)
  • Anthropoides pavonina (B474)
  • Anthropoïdes pavoninus (B483)
  • Crowned heron (B474)
  • Geranarchus pavonina (B474)
  • The Balearic Crane (B474)
  • The crowned crane (B474)
  • de Kroonkraan (Dutch) (B474, B97)
  • de Kroonvogel (Dutch) (B474)
  • l'Oiseau royal (French) (B474)
  • la Grue couronnée (French) (B474)
  • der Pfauenkranich (German) (B474)
  • Gauraka (Haussas) (B474)
  • Balearica (B483)

Names for newly-hatched


Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases


Return to top of page


Species Author

Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)

Major References

B97, B107.w8, B480.14.w14, B483.w2, W2.Dec06.w14, W2.Nov2013.w1

Aviculture references:
B31, B97, B115.2.w7, B479.w16, D437, J23.17.w5, J23.18.w5, N4.8.w2, P1.1986.w4, P96.1.w1, P89.1.w1


(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

Return to top of page

TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

  • --

Return to top of page

Aviculture Information


General Information:
  • Cranes are tall birds with a long beak and sharp claws, and can be aggressive. Their ability to injure humans must be considered in enclosure design and handling. (B115.2.w7, B197.9.w9)
  • Most cranes are wetland species, a few being primarily grassland species. They should be given the opportunity to wade and bathe, and to forage and/or dig for food in natural vegetation and soft soil substrates.
  • Good nutrition, with adequate protein and micronutrient levels, is essential for the general health of the cranes and for breeding.
  • Cranes form monogamous pairs and can be extremely territorial, particularly in the breeding season. Therefore it is important to house each pair of adult cranes in a separate enclosure from other cranes, and preferably not directly adjacent to another pair of cranes, particularly of the same species. Visual barriers should be put in place between crane enclosures before the breeding season
  • Care is required when introducing intended mates to each other, to avoid injury to one or both birds; formation of a good pair bond can take time.
  • Cranes are unlikely to breed if they feel insecure, such as in mixed species enclosures with hoofstock, or if there is no part of their enclosure which is free from daily human disturbance.
  • If possible, rotational pens should be provided, such that a pen can be left empty in alternate years, to reduce soil burdens of parasites and pathogenic microorganisms which may otherwise build up to problematic levels; this is particularly important if chicks are to be parent-reared, to avoid overwhelming exposure to e.g. gapeworm very early.

(B115.2.w7, D437, J23.17.w5, P1.1986.w4, P96.1.w1)

Species-specific information:

  • Crowned cranes can be kept on large lawn areas with other wading birds or with waterfowl.
  • "Rarely wade, show a great disinclination to swim, and may usually be seen searching for natural food (insects and shoots of tender herbage)." Feed from the surface, do not dig or uproot turf. (B479.w16)
  • Black-crowned cranes are less hardy than the other cranes, probably the least cold-tolerant. Although they cope quite well with northern European climates, they need a dry, draught-free and frost-proof indoor shelter in winter (and need to be shut  into this at night in cold weather) and in colder areas also additional heat. (B31, B97, P89.1.w1)
    • They may need to be kept inside most of the time in very cold weather, although they may benefit from being let out for a short time each day. (B479.w16)
    • Toes may get frost-bitten if they are not given sufficient protection. (B479.w16)
    • They will readily perch on bales of stray in the shelter if these are offered; this may help avoid frostbitten toes. (V.w5)
  • They appreciate cover; will shelter behind bushes and perch on logs. They may be seen lying down basking in the sun. They do not appear comfortable in exposed, windy enclosures. (B479.w16)
  • Can be kept in a large aviary, and with other birds, but separation is recommended for breeding, particularly during chick-rearing. (J23.18.w5)
    • Shelter may be advisable during chick-rearing. (J23.18.w5)
  • A pair at the Tropical Bird Gardens, Rode, nested in an area away from visitors; the nest was a shallow scrape lined with twigs, and with more twigs around to give a total nest area about 3 ft diameter. Three eggs were laid at intervals of two days; incubation started once the third egg was laid. The female deserted the nest 24 days into incubation and the eggs were then put under broodies. One hatched, one was dead-in-shell and one addled. The chick was raised with the bantam in an outdoor pen with a heat lamp in a central shelter area 41 x 41 x 416" and a surrounding outdoor area. The chick was let out daily once ground frosts had disappeared. The chick was light brown the bill being pinkish and the legs dark. The chick was fed mealworms, minced meat, turkey breeder grower pellets and late also copped sprats, chopped day-old chicks and Mazuri Flamingo Diet. The mealworms and meat were sprinkled with a vitamin powder. A velvety "crown" first was visible at about one month of age. At about 1.5 months, as the quills were coming through, one wing began to droop and then twist (angel wing), the wing was taped into a normal position for two days and when the tape was removed there were no more problems. (N4.8.w2)
Management Techniques


Bird Husbandry and Management

Return to top of page

External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length Height 100-105 cm, wingspan 180-200 cm. (B107.w8)
Adult weight General 3,000-4,000 g. (B107.w8)
Male --
Female --
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate Cranes general: Crane chicks grow rapidly. Growth of the legs is particularly rapid in the first six weeks, with the wings then developing rapidly after this. (B107.w8)

Return to top of page


Adult Bill Male
  • Grey. (B107.w8)
  • Black. (B97, B483.w2)
  • Shorter than in Grus spp., with ovate nostrils. (B483.w2)
Variations (If present) Female: --
Eyes (Iris) Male
  • Pale grey to pale blue. (B107.w8)
  • Light blue. (B483.w2)
  • Very pale grey or pearl. (B97)
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Bill --
Eyes (Iris) Brown. (B107.w8)

Return to top of page


Adult Male
  • Grey. (B107.w8)
  • Black. (B483.w2)
  • Blackish-grey. (B97)
  • The hind toe (hallux) is long and prehensile (this allows crowned cranes to perch in trees). (B107.w8)
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile --

Return to top of page


Adult Male
  • Head: 
    • Crown of yellow feathers. (B107.w8)
    • White cheek patch, red in the lower half. (B107.w8)
      • In Balearica pavonina ceciliae there is more red on the cheek patch, extending more than half way up the cheek patch (compared with only half way up in Balearica pavonina pavonina). (B107.w8, B559.2.1.w2a) 
    • Throat wattles are present, which are red. 
  • Neck: dark grey. (B107.w8)
  • Their body plumage is loose. (B107.w8)
  • Body and neck plumage long, hackle-shaped, dark slate or blackish. (B483.w2) Head has frontal and coronal feathers anterior to the crown smooth and velvety black; crown of wire-like bristles (feather shafts) each about 3.5 inches long, flat, white one side and pale brown the other, twisted throughout its length, and tipped in black. Skin in front of the eyes bare, black. Cheek patch bare, white upper half but deep rose-red lower half, throat wattles small. (B483.w2)
  • Wings white, with primaries and secondaries black, tertials dark brownish-red, with some elongated pale golden plumes over these. Underside white with flight feathers black. (B483.w2)
Variations (If present)
  • Grey, with crown and nape brown, body grey to brown. (B107.w8)
  • Dusky with brown margins to the feathers; the wings are white, marginated with fulvous brown. The occipital tuft of pale brown downy feathers is well-developed by the time the chicks are a quarter grown. (B483.w2)

Return to top of page

Identification Notes

Cranes general: 
  • "Cranes are large to very large birds with long necks and legs, streamlined bodies and long, rounded wings." (B107.w8)
  • Compared to the day-herons, cranes have longer legs and hold their necks straighter. (B107.w8)
  • Compared to egrets, the body is proportionately larger. (B107.w8)
  • Compared to storks, the legs are longer, bodies lighter and bills smaller. (B107.w8)
  • In flight, cranes have their necks straight forwards and their long legs trailing behind, forming a straight line from the bill; in very cold weather the legs may be pulled in against the body. (B107.w8)

Black-crowned crane


melodious, generally low-pitched honks. (B107.w8)

Return to top of page

Newly-hatched Characteristics

  • Precocial, forage with parents soon after hatching. (B107.w8)
  • Crane general: The initial down is replaced by a second coat of down; this is replaced by feathers. (B107.w8)

Return to top of page

Detailed Anatomy

  • Unlike other cranes, the Balearica spp. have a short, uncoiled trachea, which barely if at all impresses against the sternum. (B107.w8)
  • The trachea is straight. (B483.w2)
  • Cranes have ten functional primary flight feathers (with a vestigial 11th in most species), and 18-25 secondary flight feathers. (B107.w8)
  • The moult is gradual, so these cranes do not have a prolonged flightless period. (B107.w8)

Return to top of page


Reproductive Season

Time of year July to October, varying in response to the rains. (B107.w8)
No. of Clutches --

Return to top of page

Nest placement and structure

  • In or along the edge of densely vegetated wetlands, a circular platform constructed from grasses and sedges. (B107.w8, B559.2.1.w2a)
  • Nest base often more than 1 m diameter; reeds and grasses making  a round, loosely-constructed platform, usually in several centimetres of water but sometimes on dry land. (W2.Nov2013.w1)
  • Usually with surrounding water and vegetation to provide isolation, but sometimes on dry land close to water. (B480.14.w14)
  • Nests of about 30 ins (76.2 cm) and 30 x 40 ins (76.2 x 101.6 cm) across described. (B480.14.w14)
  • Initially a pile of vegetation, which both birds pull up and throw on or towards the nest. Gradually trampled down. larger nests in deeper water, wide at the base and narrower at the top. (B480.14.w14)
  • Average 88.2 x 105.9 cm (right nests); a deep water nest was 94 x 21.9 cm at the base and 35.6 - 38 cm at the top. (B480.14.w14)
  • In dry territories sometimes more than one nest built. (B480.14.w14)
  • Balearica spp. occasionally nest in low trees. (B104)
  • A captive pair built a nest from sticks and straw, and added to it daily for a week. (J23.18.w5)

Return to top of page

Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average 2.5 (B107.w8, B559.2.1.w2a, W2.Nov2013.w1)
  • Cranes general: 
    • Clutch size is 2-4 in Balearica. Cranes will lay replacements after eggs have been lost. (B104)
    • Eggs are laid generally at intervals of two days (range one to four days). (B104)
  • 2-3 (B107.w8)
  • 2-4 observed for a pair in captivity, laid at intervals of two days. (J23.18.w5)
  • 2-3. (B480.14.w14)
Egg Description
  • Bluish white, plain, 76 x 57 mm, 130 g. (P91.1.w6)
  • Light blue or pink when laid, shell rough, sometimes slightly glossy. Ovate or sub-elliptical. Soon badly stained. (B480.14.w14)
  • Average 140 g (122.0 - 168.1 g) at/near laying; average 115.3 g at hatching. (B480.14.w14)
  • Average 80.2 x 57.9 mm. (B480.14.w14)

Return to top of page


  • 28-31 days. (B107.w8, B559.2.1.w2a)
  • Incubation begins after the last egg of the clutch has been laid. (B107.w8)
  • 28-33 days (based on the assumption that incubation started the day the first egg was laid). (J23.18.w5)
  • Incubation starting on the day the first egg is laid. Eggs laid two days apart, but all hatched within a few hours of one another; 28 - 31 days incubation. (B480.14.w14)

Return to top of page


  • Synchronous. (B107.w8)
  • Hatch within a few hours of each other. (B480.14.w14)

Return to top of page


  • About 60-100 days. (B107.w8, B559.2.1.w2a)
  • About four months. (B480.14.w14)

Return to top of page

Sexual Maturity

Males Four years old. (B480.14.w14)
Females Four years old. (B480.14.w14)

Return to top of page


Feeding Behaviour

  • Normally these cranes peck food off the surface; they rarely dig. (B107.w8)
  • Sometimes they stamp their feet while feeding, probably to disturb invertebrates. (B107.w8, B481.II.1.w9)
  • They use their short bills to graze in a manner similar to geese. (B107.w8)
  • Forage in open upland/grasslands. (B559.2.1.w2a)
  • In the dry season they often forage near domestic livestock herds, where invertebrates may be more abundant. (B107.w8, B559.2.1.w2a)
  • Dig for roots. (B480.14.w14)
  • Take food items offered by the parents. (N1.75.w2)

Return to top of page

Parental Behaviour

  • Both male and female build the nest, trampling and scratching at vegetation, pulling grass with their bills and tossing it sideways onto the nest site. (B480.14.w14)
  • Cranes general: Both male and female build the nest. (B107.w8)
  • Cranes general: A secluded spot in the pair's territory is chosen, and the cranes unison-call there, then walk away from the selected place and toss nesting materials over their shoulders towards it. Returning to the nest site, they pull into the nest material which is within reach, then slowly walk away and toss more material towards the nest, repeating this sequence until sufficient nesting material has been gathered. (B107.w8)
  • Both birds incubate. One incubates for the whole night while the other roosts in a tree which may be 0.5 - 1.0 mile distant. (B480.14.w14)
  • Both male and female were observed to incubate, alternating four to six times during the day (0700-15.30), but with the female tending to incubate for longer than the male. (J23.18.w5)
  • Cranes general: 
    • Both male and female incubate, changing over several times during the day, but with the female usually incubating during the night. (B107.w8)
    • About every 30-80 minutes, the bird which is incubating will rise and roll the eggs or adjust the nest. (B107.w8)
  • Incubation begins after the last egg of the clutch has been laid. (B107.w8)
  • Chicks start walking with their parents from a day old, but initially remain near the nest and may return there at night; then start roaming longer distances with the parents. (B480.14.w14)
  • For a captive pair in a large paddock, the parents first took the chick for a walk when they were only a few hours old. They offered chicks various invertebrates including Diptera and Orthoptera, but particularly small earthworms. The adult would offer the food to the chick, which would take it and swallow it. (N1.75.w2)
  • Cranes general: Adult cranes feed their chicks from soon after hatching. Both male and female bring small items to the chicks, presenting them by holding the food item at the tip of the bill or dropping the food in front of the chicks. (B107.w8)
  • Cranes general: Adult cranes continue to care for their chicks throughout the pre-fledging period and may bring food to the chick for several months (although chicks also follow their parents to food sources from an early age). Juveniles remain with their parents through the non-breeding periods but leave at the start of the next breeding season or are driven away after the return to the breeding territory. (B107.w8)

Return to top of page

Social Behaviour

  • Black crowned cranes may form large flocks in the non-breeding, dry season. (B107.w8, W2.Nov2013.w1)
    • May remain in flocks year-round if nesting habitat is unavailable due to drainage or overgrazing. (B559.2.1.w2a)
    • In southern Sudan, flock formation starts along the Nile in November, peaks in late February and March.
    • In Chad, gathering following breeding, and moving south. (W2.Nov2013.w1)
  • Territories of breeding pairs 86 - 388 hectares, with the nesting territory closely guarded, but the feeding territory not. (B480.14.w14)
  • Chase non-breeding cranes from the nest by flying at them. In encounters with other pairs, mainly defensive shows, with the males posturing at each other (defensive pose then false-preening), rarely actual bodily contact/attack. (B480.14.w14)
Cranes general: 
  • Cranes are gregarious outside the breeding season, but separate for the breeding season. (B107.w8)
  • Juveniles which are not yet paired gather in non-breeding flocks and may be nomadic through the breeding period. (B107.w8)
  • By the end of their second year the young birds may have started to initiate pair bonds. (B107.w8)

Cranes general: 

  • Confronting a predator, a crane will spread its wings and arch forward as if ready to fight while approaching the predator. (B107.w8)

Return to top of page

Sexual Behaviour

  • Balearica spp. (crowned cranes) pairs preen one another's head plumage; this behaviour is not seen in the other cranes. (B107.w8)
  • Pairs remain close together. (B480.14.w14)
  • Often dance together in the morning, generally instigated by the male.
  • Cranes general: Monogamous. Crane pairs stay together all year, and usually remain together until one partner dies. (B107.w8)
  • Cranes general: (B107.w8)
    • Cranes copulate repeatedly, starting several weeks before egg laying.
    • Mating usually occurs before sunrise, but can also occur at other times during daylight hours. 
    • In newly-established pairs, copulation is preceded by long bouts of dancing. Well-established pairs mate without any tension. 
    • The copulatory sequence is initiated by the male or the female. The initiating bird elevates its bill, arches slightly forwards and gives a low, purring call. The mate then shows similar behaviour. 
    • The male bird (usually) circles its mate with exaggerated steps.
    • The female spreads her wings. The male approaches, jumps onto her back with his wings flapping, and crouches.
    • The female elevates her tail, the male lowers his tail, and the cloacae of the two birds meet.
    • The male jumps forward off the female over her head and for a few seconds performs threat displays.
    • Both birds perform a long preening sequence.


Return to top of page

Predation in Wild


Return to top of page

Activity Patterns

  • Crowned cranes (both species) sometimes roost in trees; they are the only cranes able to do this. (B107.w8, B104)
  • Roost in trees. (B559.2.1.w2a)
    • Prefer roosting in large trees; will also roost in small trees or shallow water if necessary. (W2.Nov2013.w1)
  • May show daily and seasonal movements of perhaps dozens of kilometers between roosting and feeding areas. (B559.2.1.w2a)

Cranes general:

  • Roosting:
    • In flocks, cranes stand about a "peck distance" apart while roosting.
    • Most of the time they stand on one leg, switching legs several times during the night.
    • The head and neck are tucked onto or under one shoulder.
    • Cranes defecate at regular intervals while roosting.
    • On the roosting site they are still and silent unless disturbed.
    • If there is an unfamiliar sound, or one member of the flock gives an alarm call, all the birds become alert and are ready to fly.


  • At dawn, cranes wake, stretch, preen and drink.
  • In small groups, they fly to a post-roosting staging area, and preen more; cranes may gather at such a site from several roost sites.
  • Small and then larger groups move from the staging area to a feeding area for the day.
  • Generally, cranes feed for a long time in the early morning, then move to loafing areas.
    • At loafing areas, cranes preen and drink, and also engage in social displays, establishing a pecking order for families, and facilitating pairing of unattached birds.
  • In the middle of very hot days, they may fly, spirally high up on thermals.
  • Later they return to feeding and watering areas and forage.
  • They then move to pre-roosting staging areas before flying to a roost site.
    • On the pre-roost staging areas they may engage in social displays.


  • Self-directed activities of cranes include eating and drinking, sleeping, walking and flying, preening, bathing, stretching, shaking, scratching, ruffling and feather-painting. (B107.w8)
  • Cranes general: Diurnal. Outside the breeding season, cranes roost at night and feed during the day. (B107.w8)

Return to top of page

Natural Diet / Physiology

Adult Diet

  • These cranes are generalists, feeding on insects such as grasshoppers and flies, molluscs, millipeded, cristaceans and other invertebrates, fish, amphibians and reptiles, as well as seed heads, tips of grasses and crops such as millet, rice and corn. (B107.w8)
  • Insects, tips of plants. (B559.2.1.w2a)
  • Generalist, omnivorous, particularly small grain crops, also small plants, small invertebrates and small vertebrates. (W2.Nov2013.w1)
  • Grass seeds, grain, insects and other invertebrates, including millipedes (Spirostreptus sp.) and Potamon sp. crabs. (B480.14.w14)

Return to top of page

Newly-hatched Diet

Based on a chick being parent-reared in a large paddock, initially mainly invertebrates, later also grain etc. (N1.75.w2)

Return to top of page

Detailed Physiology Notes

Return to top of page

Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)


Black crowned crane distribution map. Click here for full-page view with caption.

  • Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya,  Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Sudan, Sudan and Togo. (W2.Nov2013.w1)

    • Vagrant to Côte d'Ivoire, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Uganda. (W2.Nov2013.w1)

  • Disjunct sub-populations through the Sahel and Sudan-Guinea savannah zones, Africa; there are records as far south as the Democratic Republic of Congo. Previously much more widespread. (W2.Nov2013.w1)

  • Balearica pavonina pavonina. Found in scattered populations in sun-Saharan West Africa from Senegambia to L Chad. (B107.w8)
    • In 1985 estimated at 15,000 - 20,000 and in 2004 estimated about 15,000; the alarming rate of decrease reported in the 1960s and 1970s appears to have slowed. (W2.Nov2013.w1)
  • Balearica pavonina ceciliae. Found in sub-Saharan Africa from Chad to Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya, particularly in the basin of the upper River Nile. (B107.w8)
    • Less well studied, but in 1985 thought to be aboue 65,000 - 90,000 individuas, reducing to 65,000 - 77,5000 in 1994 and 28,000-55,000 in 2004; at least 80% were in Sudan and South Sudan. (W2.Nov2013.w1)
  • Both subspecies show range contractions. (W2.Nov2013.w1)
  • "Sahel and Sudan Savanna region of Africa from Senegal and Gambia on the Atlantic coast east to the upper Nile River basin in Sudan and Ethoiopia." (B559.2.1.w2a)
    • Major wetland areas for these cranes include the Senegal River delta, inland delta of the Niger River (Mali), Wazi River delta (Lake Chad, Cameroon), Sudd wetlands in southern Sudan. (B559.2.1.w2a)


  • Non-migratory. Daily and seasonal movements may extend several dozen kilometres between feeding and roosting sites. (B107.w8)

  • In the dry season these cranes often flock in large numbers in large permanent wetlands, while in the wet season they disperse to smaller temporary wetlands. (B107.w8, B559.2.1.w2a)

  • Resident, but with local movements. (W2.Dec06.w14)

  • May be considered as year-round residents and local migrants. (B559.2.1.w2a)

  • In Nigeria, local movements depending on water levels. (W2.Nov2013.w1)

Occasional and Accidental
  • Vagrant to Egypt and Uganda. (W2.Dec06.w14)



Return to top of page


  • Mixed shallow wetlands and grasslands. (B107.w8, B559.2.1.w2a) In West Africa, this crane is found on flooded lowlands, riverbanks, rice fields, wet cropland and upland fields. In East Africa, it is found in extensive marshes, wet meadows and pond, lake and river margins. While these cranes will forage and nest in uplands, they are always close to wetlands. (B107.w8)
    • West African: mixed shallow wetlands and grasslands, particularly flooded lowlands in the rainy season. (B559.2.1.w2a)
      • Sometimes forage and nest in upland areas in West Africa. (W2.Nov2013.w1)
    • East African: large freshwater marshes, wet meadows, fields, also along the edges of ponds, lakes and rivers, in open areas of emergent vegetation. (B559.2.1.w2a)
  • Wet and dry open habitats: moist savannas; subtropical/tropical dry lowland grasslands; subtropical/tropical seasonally wet/flooded lowland grasslands; subtropical/tropical high altitude grasslands; wetlands (permanent rivers, streams and creeks, bogs, marshes, swamps, fens, peatlands, permanent and seasonal/intermittent freshwater lakes, pools and marshes; permanent inland deltas; coastal freshwater lagoons; also artificial habitats: arable land, large water storage areas (over 8 hectares), irrigated land and seasonally flooded arable land. (W2.Dec06.w14, W2.Nov2013.w1), 
    • Preferred habitats are freshwater marshes, wet grasslands and the peripheries of water-bodies. (W2.Dec06.w14, W2.Nov2013.w1)
    • Stay near water, but rarely associated with deep open water. (W2.Nov2013.w1)
    • For breeding, prefer small marshes, damp meadows, borders of lakes and streams, large open marshes, low spots on open plains, generally with dry open meadows available nearby for feeding. (B480.14.w14)
  • In the non-breeding season, found congregated in larger permanent wetlands; often forage near domestic livestock herds and even in rubbish dumps. (W2.Nov2013.w1)

Return to top of page


Intraspecific variation

This species was formerly considered conspecific with Balearica regulorum - Grey crowned-crane. Differentiated by differences in appearance of the plumage and bare parts, vocalisations and by electrophoresis studies. (B107.w8)

There are two subspecies:

  • Balearica pavonina pavonina. Found in scattered populations in sun-Saharan West Africa from Senegambia to L Chad. (B107.w8)
    • In at least eight disjunct populations. (B559.2.1.w2a)
  • Balearica pavonina ceciliae. Found in sub-Saharan Africa from Chad to Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya, particularly in the basin of the upper River Nile. (B107.w8)
    • Largest concentrations are found in southern Sudan. (B559.2.1.w2a)

Return to top of page

Conservation Status

Wild Population -
  • Not globally threatened. [1996](B107.w8)

  • CITES II. (B107.w8)

  • Estimated 55,000-65,000 Balearica pavonina ceciliae and 11,500-17,500 Balearica pavonina pavonina. (B107.w8)

    • Balearica pavonina ceciliae populations are relatively stable. [1996](B559.2.1.w2a)

    • The numbers of Balearica pavonina pavonina have fallen dramatically since the 1970's, due to drought, human population pressure, habitat loss. (B107.w8)

  • Near Threatened. Black crowned cranes are found in disjunct subpopulations through the Sahel and Sudan-Guinea savanna zones of Africa, with records from as far south as the Democratic Republic of Congo. It used to be both more numerous and more widespread. [2006](W2.Dec06.w14)

    • Populations of Balearica pavonina pavonina are declining. (B559.2.1.w2a)

    • The eastern subpopulation (Balearica pavonina ceciliae) may be stable, with about 28,000-55,000 individuals, (more than 80% of these being in Sudan), but numbers of the western subspecies, Balearica pavonina pavonina) have declined to about 15,000 birds, and there has been a dramatic range reduction for this subspecies over the last 20 years. (W2.Dec06.w14)

  • Vulnerable (A4bcd ver. 3.1), published 2012 (assessed as Near Threatened, 2004, 2006, 2008; first assessed as Vulnerable, 2010). Recent surveys have shown a rapid population decline and this is predicted to continue mainly due to habitat loss and to trapping for domestication locally or for the illegal wildlife trade. There is poor knowledge of trend data for the eastern sub-population; if this is worst-case, then a higher listing may be appropriate. [2013](W2.Nov2013.w1)


  • Habitat loss and degradation: drought-related wetland declines compounded by intensive agricultural development and expansion, large scale dams, drainage and irrigation. (B107.w8, B559.2.1.w2a)

  • In some areas, hunting and trade. (B107.w8, B559.2.1.w2a)

  • In several countries these cranes have been lost or nearly lost. (B107.w8)

  • Habitat loss and degradation due to drought, overgrazing, agricultural and industrial pollution, wetland drainage and dam construction (flooding wetlands upstream and dessicating wetlands downstream. (W2.Dec06.w14, W2.Nov2013.w1)

    • Drought has forced human populations to move to relatively moist, previously less-populated regions; these are then subjected to increased pressures of drainage, agriculture  etc. (W2.Nov2013.w1)

  • Additionally, considerable hunting pressures, including the capture and sale of live birds, including some for legal international markets (more than 7,000 birds since 1985 when the species was listed in CITES Appendix II). (W2.Dec06.w14, W2.Nov2013.w1)

    • Some body parts, particularly rhe head and wings, are used in traditional healing. (W2.Nov2013.w1)

  • Indiscriminate pesticide application which may be leading to harmful bio-accumulation of toxins. (W2.Dec06.w14, W2.Nov2013.w1)

  • Direct poisoning to reduce crop depredation. (W2.Nov2013.w1)

  • Ineffective law enforcement and insufficient penalties for illegal actions. (B559.2.1.w2a)

  • Political instability prevents the implementation of conservation measures. (W2.Nov2013.w1)

  • Threats from oil exploration. W2.Nov2013.w1


  • Listed as CITES Appendix II. (W2.Nov2013.w1)

  • Preliminary crane and wetland action plans were drawn up by several countries at a workshop in 1993. (B107.w8)

  • Black Crowned crane Co-ordinating Centre was established following an international conference on this species. (B107.w8, B559.2.1.w2a)

  • Collaborative project, launched 1999, to determine population size and trend, distribution, and threats, and to draft an action plan; this may assist in identifying key breeding sites for protection. (W2.Dec06.w14, W2.Nov2013.w1))

  • About half of range states are parties to the Ramsar Convention. (B559.2.1.w2a)

  • Use national parks, reserves etc. (B559.2.1.w2a)

  • Releases have been carried out experimentally. (B107.w8)

General Legislation
  • In most range states, legally protected. (B107.w8, B559.2.1.w2a)

CITES listing CITES Appendix II. (W2.Dec06.w14, W2.Nov2013.w1)
Red-data book listing Near Threatened [2004, 2006]. "Nearly qualifies as threatened under criteria A2bcde+3bcde. "(W2.Dec06.w14)

Return to top of page

Captive Populations

  • In 1993, estimated 448 in captivity including 31 reported as Balearica pavonina ceciliae and 122 reported as Balearica pavonina pavonina. (B559.2.1.w2a)
  • Regional captive management plans in North America and Europe; regional studbooks in North America and UK. (B559.2.1.w2a)

Return to top of page


  • There is a trade in this species, with more than 7,000 wild-caught individuals known to be traded legally on the international markets since 1985 (when the species was listed in Cites Appendix II). (W2.Dec06.w14)

Return to top of page