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Wattled crane - Grus (Bugeranus) carunculatus. Click here for full-page view with caption. Wattled crane - Grus (Bugeranus) carunculatus. Click here for full-page view with caption Wattled crane - Grus (Bugeranus) carunculatus. Click here for full-page view with caption Wattled crane - Grus (Bugeranus) carunculatus. Click here for full-page view with caption Wattled crane - Grus (Bugeranus) carunculatus. Click here for full-page view with caption Wattled crane. Click here for full-page view with caption. Wattled crane with chick. Click here for full-page view with caption. Wattled crane chick, one day old. Click here for full-page view with caption. Wattled crane pair with young chick. Click here for full-page view with caption. Wattled crane pair with chick in large pen. Click here for full-page view with caption. Wattled crane pair with chick.  Click here for full-page view with caption. Wattled crane distribution map. Click here for full-page view with caption. Crane chick hatching. Click here for full-page view with caption. Crane chick hatching. Click here for full-page view with caption. Crane chick hatching. Click here for full-page view with caption. Crane chick hatching. Click here for full-page view with caption. Crane chick just hatched. Click here for full-page view with caption. Newly-hatched crane chick being examined. Click here for full-page view with caption.










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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Bugeranus carunculatus
  • Great African wattled crane (B107.w8)
  • Anthropoides carunculata (B474)
  • The wattled heron (B474)
  • Ardea carunculata (B474)
  • Ardea palearis
  • Laomedontia carunculata
  • de Lelkraan (Dutch)
  • la Grue caronculée (French)
  • der GlockenKranich (German)
  • Klunkerkranich. (German) (B107.w8)
  • Gruella carunculada. (Spanish) (B107.w8)
  • Grue caronculée (French) (B107.w8, W2.Dec06.w5)
  • Gruella zarzo (Spanish). (W2.Dec06.w5)

Names for newly-hatched


Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases


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Species Author

Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)

Major References

B97, B107.w8, B477, B481.II.3.w11, J50.94.w1, P90.1.w5, W2.Nov2013.w5

Aviculture references:
B31, B115.2.w7, D437, J23.17.w5, P1.1986.w4, P96.1.w1)N1.V.9.w1, N4.10.w1, N4.11.w1, P108.9.w3


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

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

Parent Group

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

  • --

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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:

  • Need a heated winter shelter. (B31)
  • Require spacious solitary enclosures (i.e. for one pair of cranes, not housed with other birds). (B31)
  • Fencing of at least two metres high is required. (B31)
  • Two pairs were maintained in "D" shaped enclosures about 90 ft x 27 ft, backed by a 9 ft wall and with chain link fences 7' 6"" high, grassed, with a small pond and containing trees and shrubs as well as a wooden hut. The cranes were wing-clipped (feather clipped). To form the pairs, each pen was divided in half with a chain link fence; no aggression was seen and the dividing fences were removed after a month.  The cranes were fed a diet outside the breeding season of "turkey rearer pellets, poultry corn, flaked maize, day-old chicks, chopped mackerel fillets, apple, pear and lettuce". During the breeding season this was changed to increase the protein content, and consisted of "turkey breeder pellets, dove and pheasant mix, peanuts, chopped apple/pear and lettuce, chicks/chooped mackerel fillets/minced meat, mealworms, Mazuri amphibia diet (soaked) and Evenload puppy meal (soaked), with daily addition of bonemeal and twice daily kelp powder and vionate (multivitamin/mineral mix). (N4.10.w1, P108.9.w3)
    • In one year, one pair laid five eggs, on 3rd April, 13th April, 28th April, 14th May and 17th May, but ate two of these. The other pair laid on 14 March, 19 March and 14 May. (N4.10.w1)
  • Aggressive, particularly males during the breeding season. (B31, N1.V.9.w1)
    • A pair in an "African Plains" exhibit were moved to a separate enclosure due to aggression by the male towards all other animals. (N1.V.9.w1)
  • Hand-reared chicks are very aggressive to each other. (N47.109.w1)
  • Eggs hatched after 32-33 days of artificial incubation in a still air incubator at 99 - 101 °F and relative humidity approximately 58%; eggs were turned three or five times daily). (N4.10.w1, P108.9.w3)
    • Some eggs were partially sat by broodies; these were hand-turned three times daily. (N4.10.w1)
  • Hand-rearing: (N4.11.w1, P108.9.w3)
    • Chicks were kept individually with a feather duster and a mirror to reduce imprinting and provide security.
      • Use of golden pheasant chicks as companions was not successful due to the crane chick attacking the pheasants. (N4.11.w1)
    • Chicks ate little for the first 12 hours, then little and often, being fed chick starter crumbs, chopped lettuce, mealworms and chopped boiled egg, offered from a spoon. Crickets added after about four days and become the main live food. Chick crumbs later changed to pullet rearer pellets.
    • Chicks were weighed daily before the evening food and feeding reduced if necessary to avoid weight gain over 20% per day; usually weight gain of 8-15% was considered sufficient. (P108.9.w3)
    • From about 10 days old, given time outside during the day, with a heated shelter available at all times. (N4.11.w1)
    • From 45 days old, heat no longer needed; shortly afterwards, moved to a larger paddock with a shed; shut in at night.. (N4.11.w1)
    • Chicks introduced to each other at about 12 weeks old or older; introduction younger than this results in aggression between the chicks. (P108.9.w3)
Management Techniques


Bird Husbandry and Management

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length About 175 cm. Wingspan 230-260 cm. (B107.w8) Males are generally larger than females. (B107.w8)
Adult weight General --
Male 8,300-8,500 g. (B107.w8)
Female 7,100-7,900 g. (B107.w8)
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate
  • By 135 days, over 5,000 g. (B481.II.3.w11)

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)

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Adult Bill Male Red. (B97)
Variations (If present) Female: --
Eyes (Iris) Male
  • Orange to red. (B107.w8)
  • Deep reddish-orange. (B477)
  • Orange-yellow. (B97)
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Bill
  • Pale orangy-brown. (B477)
  • The wattles are not fully developed (B107.w8), although they are just evident (covered with down) even in young chicks. (B481.II.3.w11); the face does not have bare skin. (B481.II.3.w11)
Eyes (Iris) Brown. (B481.II.3.w11)

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Adult Male
  • Grey. (B107.w8)
  • Black or dull grey. (B477)
  • Black. (B97)
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Bluish black in chicks. (B481.II.4.w12)

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Adult Male
Crown dark grey, rest of head, neck and upper breast white, with face bare, red "with small rounded excrescences in front of the two white wattles", mantle, breast, primaries, tail, tail coverts black; back and remainder of wings, included elongated secondaries covering tail, pale grey. (B477)

The feathers on the sides of the head can be raised during displays. (B107.w8)

Variations (If present)
  • Similar to the adult, but the tertials are shorter (B107.w8) and the plumage a bit tawny; in the first winter the black crown has not yet developed, nor the black on the back and underparts. (B481.II.3.w11)

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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)

Wattled crane:

  • The only African crane species with a predominantly white neck. (B107.w8); this contrast with the black crown, back and breast. (B481.II.3.w11)
  • Wattled cranes, and Grus leucogeraus - Siberian crane, have bare red skin on the front of the face, extending down to the nares of the upper mandible, and in this species down the front of the two fleshy wattles or dewlaps. The wattles (which are covered with white feathers on the back half) can be extended during displays. The red skin in the wattled crane does not extend up the front of the face above the eyes. (B107.w8)
  • The inner secondaries are elongated and form a prominent "tail" when the wings are folded. (B107.w8)
  • A very large crane with a dark face, long, white-feathered wattles, white neck and breast and black underparts. (B475)
  • Distinguished from Grus paradisea - Blue crane by its larger size and white rather than grey neck. (B475)


  • Calls high-pitched and piercing. (B107.w8)
  • usually silent. Has a Kwaarnk bugle call which carries a long distance. (B475)

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

  • Precocial. Pale to dark brown; small wattles. (B107.w8)
  • Cranes general: The initial down is replaced by a second coat of down; this is replaced by feathers. (B107.w8)

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Detailed Anatomy

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Reproductive Season

Time of year
  • Variable, depending on water levels, but mainly July to August in Ethiopia and mainly April to October in South Africa. (B107.w8)
  • Ethiopia, May to October, others July to December, peak August-September; the southern-most populations July-August. (W2.Nov2013.w5)
  • Variable, depending on water levels. In Ethiopia, mainly May to August, On the Kafue Flats, nesting mainly May to September, peaking June and July. In a year with normal flooding, 40% of pairs were observed to nest, while in a year with limited flooding only 3% nested; in another study on the Kafue Flats, 64% of cranes seen were breeding pairs, and 11% of studied pairs raised a chick to fledging. (P90.1.w5) Busanga, nesting starts June and July. Liuwa (upper Zambezi River Basin), nesting mainly June to August. Okavango,. nesting August to September.In the many small wetlands, peak December. (P90.1.w5)
No. of Clutches Repeated clutches have been reported. (B107.w8)

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Nest placement and structure

  • In wet grasslands and sedge marshes "when water levels provide new vegetation growth and open water around nests." (B107.w8)
  • The nest is usually constructed in water up to 60 cm deep, from wetland vegetation piled into a mound and with a surrounding clear space of about four metres of open water. (B107.w8)
  • One metre diameter, reaching 20 m above the water surface, with a metre of open water around the nest. (W2.Nov2013.w5)
  • In the Okavango Delta, often just a few pieces of reed/sedge stems on small mud islands (2-3 m diameter) which are exposed to about 20-30 cm by receding waters. (W2.Nov2013.w5)
  • Pile of grasses and sedges. (B477)
  • In shallow wetlands dominated by sedges. Often at altitudes over 2,000m. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average
  • 1-2 (B107.w8, B477, P90.1.w5, W2.Nov2013.w5)
    • More likely than other crane species to lay only one egg. (P90.1.w5)
  • One female wattled crane at the New York Zoological Park laid 41 clutches of eggs over a period of 36 years (no mate available for 14 years and no eggs laid during that time), with 24 clutches of a single egg and 17 of two eggs. (J50.94.w1)
  • May lay again if the clutch/chicks is lost. (B480.11.w11, W2.Nov2013.w5)
  • Note: Only one chick raised. (W2.Nov2013.w5)
Egg Description Ovate, long ovate or subelliptical, olive-buff, deep cream, reddish fawn or dirty bluish-white in colour, with spots of various browns, buffs and pale mauve. 48 eggs averaged 102.4 +- 12.8 x 65.3 +/- 6.36 mm. A fresh egg weighed 265.3 g. (B480.11.w11)
  • For 21 infertile eggs from one female at the Bronz Zoo, USA, weights of eggs varied from 199-258.0g, with 16 of these being 231-258g. (J50.94.w1)

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  • 33-36 days. (B107.w8, W2.Nov2013.w5)
  • 32-33 days (artificial incubation in a still air incubator at 99 - 101 °F and relative humidity approximately 58%; eggs were turned three or five times daily). (N4.10.w1, P108.9.w3)
  • 32-40 days, mean 33 days. (B115.4.w1)
    • For seven fertile eggs from one wattled crane at the New York Zoological Park, incubation periods were recorded as 32 days (one), 35 days (three), 36 days (two) and 37 days (one). (J50.94.w1)
  • Incubation begins after the first egg has been laid. (B107.w8)
  • Eggs laid two days apart. (B480.11.w11)
  • Eggs laid only 18 hours apart if two eggs laid. (B481.II.4.w12, P90.1.w5)

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  • Asynchronous. (B107.w8)
    • The first chick leaves the nest at less than a day old; predation may be a major risk at this time. (W2.Nov2013.w5)
    • Note: although two eggs may be laid, only one chick is ever reared. (P90.1.w5)

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  • 90-130 days. (B107.w8)
  • 135 days. (W2.Nov2013.w5)
  • Five months. (P90.1.w5)

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Sexual Maturity

  • 3-4 years. (B107.w8)
  • About seven years. (W2.Nov2013.w5)
  • 3-4 years. (B107.w8)
  • About seven years. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

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Feeding Behaviour

  • Dig in soft wetland and upland soils with their large bills; also forage in convenient agricultural fields. (B107.w8)
  • Dig in the soil to extract tubers, insects etc. (B480.11.w11)
  • Some pecking at food, but mainly digging for food. (B481.II.4.w12)
  • Dig for tubers and rhizomes with the large beak, in flooded areas (mainly in shallow water, but sometimes submerging the whole head, and even wading up to the level of the feathered parts of the legs) and in moist (softened)  upland soils. Also strips grass seed heads, and pecks at insects and scattered seeds etc. (P90.1.w5)
Newly-hatched --

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Parental Behaviour

  • 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)
  • Incubated by both parents. Sometimes both birds off the nest. (B480.11.w11)
  • Often the parents leave the nest after only one chick has hatched. (B107.w8)
  • 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)
  • Initially both parents stay with the chick and feed it; later one may feed elsewhere. Return to the nest to brood the chick  - reported to do so for three weeks in one pair and to 103 days in another. (B480.11.w11)
  • Usually only one chick raised, but rarely under very favourable conditions two may be reared. (B480.11.w11)
    • Raising of two chicks is disputed. (B481.II.4.w12)
  • 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)
  • An 80-day-old chick was left hidden in long grass while the parents went to feed in a maize field, 300 - 400 m away. (B480.11.w11)

  • Immature birds remain with their parents for the first year, until close to the next breeding season. (B480.11.w11, P90.1.w5, W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • 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)

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Social Behaviour

  • Territorial pairs with large home ranges, about 16 sq. km mainly grassland with a small core wetland breeding habitat (essential). (W2.Nov2013.w5)
  • Non-breeding birds probably immatures and other non-nesting birds may form loose flocks, with e.g 10 individuals, roosting perhaps 10-40 m apart and feeding at these or smaller distances. (B480.11.w11)
  • Non-reeding birds may be seen alone or in groups of 3-34 birds, miainly immature birds, 1-4 years of age, although pairs which failed to nest due to unfavourable conditions, or which have been unsuccessful in breeding, may join one of these flocks. (P90.1.w5)
  • "Moderately gregarious" outside the breeding season. (B481.II.4.w12)
  • Fighting seen when a third bird ventured into a pair's territory. (B480.11.w11)
  • 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)
    • Soon after the chicks fledge, families of migratory cranes gather in flocks at pre-migratory staging areas with dependable food and safe roosting sites. As the weather deteriorates, they move further south to join larger congregations of cranes, before setting out on the main migration. (B107.w8)
  • Noted to remain separate from other crane species. (B480.11.w11)
  • Territorial pairs dominate other crane species as they are larger and stronger. (B480.11.w11)
  • Close relationships with lechwe; the lechwe eat the emergent and submerged vegetation and the wattled cranes eat the tubers and rhizomes of the same plant species..
  • Wattled cranes and crowned cranes seen in association with each other. (P90.1.w5)
  • May share wetalnds with saddlebill storks; the storks have a mainly animal-based diet, therefore competition between the two species for food resources is minimal.
  • Plectropterus gambensis - Spur-winged goose often inhabit wetlands alongside wattled cranes. (P90.1.w5)
  • Pair formation and hybridisation with Grus paradisea - Blue crane has been seen. (J725.1.w2)

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Sexual Behaviour

  • Monogamous; pair for life. (W2.Nov2013.w5)
  • Note: one pair of free-living wattled cranes in the north-eastern Free State, South Africa, in which both birds are females; it was hypothesised that this situation developed because of a low population density resulting in a lack of males during the period of normal pair formation. Importation of a male o =to the are a did not result in break up of the pair. (J725.1.w1)
  • 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.


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Predation in Wild

  • May be a particular risk of predation when the first chick to hatch leaves the nest, at less than a day old. (W2.Nov2013.w5)
  • Canis mesomelas - Jackal names as a predator of chicks. (B481.II.4.w12)

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Activity Patterns

  • Spend most of the day foraging, particularly digging. (B481.II.4.w12, P90.1.w5)

Cranes general:

  • Roosting:
    • Cranes (except the Balearica spp.) generally roost in shallow water, occasionally on mudflats, sandbars or dry ground.
    • 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, they 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.


  • Cranes general: Diurnal. Outside the breeding season, cranes roost at night and feed during the day. (B107.w8)

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Natural Diet

Adult Diet

  • Mainly aquatic tubers and rhizomes, such as Cyperus, Eleocharis dulcis, and water lilies (Nymphaea spp.), but also insects, snails, and small vertebrates such as frogs. (B107.w8)
  • Rhizomes, sedge roots and bulbs, grass sward, seed, small aquatic snails, fish, frogs. (W2.Nov2013.w5)
  • Both vegetable matter and animal food, including tubers, insects, grass seeds, wheat, snakes, frogs etc. (B480.11.w11)
  • Tubers and rhizomes of sedges, grass seeds and insects, also snails. (P90.1.w5)

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Newly-hatched Diet

  • Insects are eaten by chicks. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

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Detailed Physiology Notes

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)


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

  • Ethiopia. From Zaire, Zambia and Tanzania to Botswana and Mozambique. Outlying populations in Angola, Namibia, South Africa. (B107.w8)

  • Angola, Botswana, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, , Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa,  United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Regionally extinct in Swaziland. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Three disjunct populations: south-central population (largest), small Ethiopian population and small South African population; these may be relicts from the former range. (W2.Nov2013.w5)


  • Non-migratory. (B107.w8, W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Irregular movements in relation to water availability. (B107.w8, W2.Nov2013.w5)

    • Individuals living in permanent wetlands generally are less mobile than those from seasonal riparian or upland wetlands. (B107.w8)

    • Local migration by the Ethiopian population, leaving the breeding area when the wetlands dry up, November-December, returning with the rains in May-June and breeding May-October. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

Occasional and Accidental

Vagrant to Guinea-Bissau and to Lesotho. (W2.Dec06.w5, W2.Nov2013.w5)



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  • "Large wetlands in riparian floodplains, primarily in Zambezi and Okavango Basins." (B107.w8)
  • In the highlands of Ethiopia and South Africa, smaller wetlands, both permanent and seasonal. (B107.w8)
  • Altitudes of 0-4,140 m, in wetlands. Wetland-dependent. Congregate on large wetlands of riparian floodplains; also need pristine/semi-pristine high-altitude wetlands and grasslands in some areas. (B475, W2.Dec06.w5)
  • Outside the breeding season, generally found below 1,000 m. (B107.w8)
  • Outside the breeding season, wetlands surrounded by grasslands, both large wetlands (riparian floodplains) and high-altitude wetlands with grasslands.
  • Uses grasslands, pastures and even sometimes cultivated fields for foraging. (W2.Nov2013.w5)
  • Roost in dams and pans outside the breeding season. (W2.Nov2013.w5)
  • The Ethiopian population is less wetland-dependant outside the breeding season and is found at lower elevations in drier habitats. (W2.Nov2013.w5)
  • Breeding:
    • Shallow, sedge-dominated wetlands, usually above 2,000 m. (B107.w8)
    • "Open grass and sedge marshes, close to grassland meadows." (B477)
    • In South Africa and Zimbabwe: Breed on small undisturbed permanent wetlands with surrounding grassland or miombo woodland, in high rainfall areas. (W2.Nov2013.w5)
      • Use areas of minimal human disturbance. (W2.Nov2013.w5)
      • Opportunistically use seasonal/ephemeral wetlands. (W2.Nov2013.w5)
      • In South Africa, mainly wetland-grassland mosaics at mid-altitude; in most countries, lower-altitude seasonal flood plains with grasslands ordering wetlands. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

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Intraspecific variation


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Conservation Status

Wild Population -
  • Vulnerable. (B107.w8)

  • Wild population estimated 13,000-15,000 individuals in the mid 1980s to mid 1990s, but was probably declining, with numbers remaining apparently stable only due to improved surveys. (B107.w8)

    • Northern population in Ethiopia in the hundreds during that period. (B107.w8)

  • The present world population is estimated at 7,990 individuals, including less than 200 in Ethiopia, about 850 in Tanzania, several hundred in Democratic Republic of Congo, about 5,500 in Zambia, about 500 and possibly declining in Angola only about 15 pairs in Malawi, about 2,500 in the Zambezi Delta of Mozambique), possibly only 250 in Zimbabwe about 111 breeding pairs and a total of 1,300 individuals in Botswana, probably less than 10 pairs and 200 resident birds in Namibia, and about 242 birds in South Africa where it is declining rapidly. (W2.Dec06.w5)

    • The total population appeared stable from the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, when the key Zambian population at the Kafue Flats reportedly fell and was estimated at about 1,000 individuals in 2002. (W2.Dec06.w5)

    • Apparent significant decline from the 1980s to 2006. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Total world population estimates 7,7000, 6,000 - 8,000 and less than 8,000. (W2.Nov2013.w5)


  • Wetland loss and degradation due to agricultural intensification, indiscriminate wetland resource use, dam construction and subsequent changes in flooding. (B107.w8)

  • Wetland loss and degradation due to intensified agriculture, drainage, rice cultivation, invasive plant species (Mimosa pigra) and dam construction (causing flooding). (B475, W2.Dec06.w5, W2.Nov2013.w5)

    • Also increasing livestock, desertification, wars, agrochemicals. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Hydroelectricity schemes. (B475, W2.Dec06.w5)

  • Disturbance of nests. (B475, W2.Dec06.w5, W2.Nov2013.w5)

    • Trampling of nests by livestock. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Grass-burning regimes. (B475, W2.Dec06.w5, W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Human disturbance. (B107.w8)

    • Highly sensitive to human disturbance; may leave home ranges if there is adjacent human land use. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Poisoning. (B107.w8, B475, W2.Dec06.w5, W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Collisions with utility lines. (B107.w8, B475, W2.Dec06.w5, W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Persecution. (B475, W2.Dec06.w5)

  • Traditional medicine. (B475, W2.Dec06.w5, W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Eating of chicks. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Hunting and taking of adults for trade; removal of eggs and chicks for illegal trade. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

Conservation measures:

  • These have been taken up in South Africa and other countries. (B107.w8)

  • Several key wetlands, particularly in Zambia, Namibia and Botswana, have protected areas set up (including Ramsar Sites). (B107.w8, B475, W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Major environmental flows initiative to restore natural flooding patterns, conserve basin wetlands and control invasive species, in the Zambesi River basin. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Increased field surveys. (B107.w8)

  • In South Africa and some other countries, private land owners have been encouraged to protect and manage crane habitats, utility lines have been marked and relocated and educational and awareness programmes have been developed. (B107.w8, B475)

  • Aerial surveys, field research and a community awareness programme are being carried out by a conservation group in the Kafue Flats. (W2.Dec06.w5)

  • Habitat conservation has been the main focus. (B107.w8)

  • In 2005, announcement of a veterinary fence to the east of Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, Botswana (effectively this will extend the boundary of the park and protect grasslands from livestock). (W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Action  Plan following the 1993 African Crane and Wetland Training workshop. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Wattled Crane Recovery Programme for the South African population initiated 2000, including a captive breeding programme involving several facilities in South Africa. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Note: These cranes are relatively difficult to breed in captivity, compared with other cranes. (B107.w8)

Further conservation targets:

  • Development of a coordinated range-wide management plan. (B475, W2.Dec06.w5, W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Coordinate range-wide surveys and long-term monitoring, including to understand movements of populations between sites and countries. (B475, W2.Dec06.w5, W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Expand and continue ongoing ecological research. (B475)

  • Strengthen key protected areas, particularly the Kafue Flats, Liuwa Plane and Bangweulu Swamps in Zambia and the Zambezi Delta in Mozambique. (B475, W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Restore flooding in key habitats (e.g. Zambezi Delta, Kafue Flats, by re-operating large dams. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Improve protection outside protected areas, such as at the Jao/Boro rivers of Botswana. (W2.Dec06.w5, W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Increase educational campaigns, in particular targeting landowners with cranes breeding on their land. (B475)

  • Use satellite tracking to study movements. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Work with South African farming communities to conserve natural grasslands around wetlands. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Genetic investigation regarding the subspecific status of the South African and Ethiopian populations. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Assess the levels of trade, both legal and illegal. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Further control of Mimosa in the Kafue Flats. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Assess impacts of fire and management. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Studies to compare cattle versus indigenous game impacts on the cranes. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Research on semen cryopreservation, genetic fingerprinting, sexing from eggshell membarnes, nutrition. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Use captive-bred, South Africa-origin fledglings to supplement the free-living South African population. (W2.Nov2013.w5)

  • Assess the viability of artificial nest platforms. (B475, W2.Dec06.w5)

  • Transfer the species to CITES Appendix I. (B475, W2.Dec06.w5)

General Legislation
  • In most range states, wattled cranes are strictly protected. (B107.w8)

  • Legal protection in several countries, including South Africa. (B475, W2.Dec06.w5)

CITES listing
Red-data book listing
  • Vulnerable A2acde+3cde+4acde; C1+2a ver3.1 (2012). A small population which appears to have undergone a rapid decline, with threats continuing and increasing, although data is limited. (W2.Nov2013.w5)
    • Also assessed as Vulnerable in 1994, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2006, 2008. (W2.Nov2013.w5)
  • Vulnerable. VU A2bcde+3bcde; C1+2a(ii) ver 3.1 (2001); assessed 2006. "Although it is known that there have been some population declines, there is limited and conflicting information on trends for this species, even in key areas. Until better data can be obtained, it is listed as Vulnerable since it has a small population that appears to have undergone a rapid decline in the last three generations which, with threats continuing or increasing, is projected to continue." (W2.Dec06.w5)

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Captive Populations

In the UK, bred in two collections in 1982, with at least one of these two pairs also breeding in 1983. (P108.9.w3)

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