Species Spotlight – East African Crowned Crane

Crowned Crane 9 1 - Species Spotlight - East African Crowned Crane

This week we have introduced a pair of our spotlighted species together and what better way to celebrate than to blog about them
East African Crowned Crane
Balearica regulorum gibbericeps
Crowned Crane 14 150x150 - Species Spotlight - East African Crowned Crane
There are 2 subspecies of the Grey Crowned Crane of which we keep the East African version, native to Congo, through Uganda to Kenya and Eastern South Africa.  They prefer areas wetlands with nearby grasslands and cultivated land near rivers and lakes.  As recently as 2012 their conservation status has been upgraded to endangered, with a maximum of 77,000 left in the wild with numbers still declining due to pollution and drainage of their natural habitat
Crowned cranes stand 44-48 inches (112-122 cm) tall with males slightly taller on average.  They have a large wingspan of roughly 2 metres although they do not migrate.  The name is derived from the distinctive, bristle-like, golden feathers on top of their black head.  A red neck wattle can be inflated during breeding season to produce a booming call.  They are the only crane species capable of roosting in trees due to a large prehinsile toe that always them to grip
Crowned Crane 2 150x150 - Species Spotlight - East African Crowned Crane
Their diet consists of a wide variety of food including seeds, plants, grain, insects, worms, frogs, lizards, small fish and eggs. We provide our birds with many of these along with a specially made crane pellet
Although they can be found in large numbers (of 150) cranes are monogamous and pair for life.  Pair bonds are reinforced through dancing, including head bobbing, leaping  and wing fluttering.  Both birds construct the nest which is made of grasses and vegetation, in a secluded area of marshy ground. The female lays up to four bluish-white eggs, and both parents incubate the eggs; females incubate at night and males during the day. The eggs hatch after 28-31 days.
Crane chicks are well developed when they hatch and within a few hours can follow the parent birds around learning how to forage for food. The chicks develop flight feathers at two to four months but after fledging stay with their parents for eight to ten months, until the next breeding season. After leaving their parents, young birds gather with other juveniles and move to new foraging and roosting sites. By 18 months the young have developed adult plumage and begin practicing threat displays and mating dances. East African crowned cranes are fully mature by two to three years of age; these birds can live 20-40 years
Our pair were introduced to one another properly yesterday, having been able to see one another for a while.  We have taken our time as the male was well bonded with our Demoiselle Crane! The Demoiselle has been moved to a paddock along the canal for now.  The pair were put together in the Ibis aviary with no problems at all, spending all day together.  We keep them in the aviary as opposed to outside as the male is fully winged and at 2 metres, his wingspan does concern us!  We hope to breed from them this year
In other news….
Apart from swapping the Cranes around we have also introduced the 2 new African Spoonbills into the Ibis Aviary, where they join our resident pair.  Our 3 Ross’ Geese have also been moved here after spending the winter off-show
The male Marabou has also been moved back to his newly repaired paddock at the front
Last years young Grey Peacock Pheasant has moved into one of the boulevard aviaries
Yesterday saw me catching up 22 birds for ringing and feather collection for DNA sexing tests.  These included some of the new Avocets and Pied Imperial Pigeons, and many of last years chicks, including Mango the Yellow Shouldered Amazon
The Grey Peacock Pheasant egg in the incubator unfortunately died off so we have set two more from the aviary
The 4 Blacksmith Plover eggs were all infertile but they look like nesting again
The Kookaburras were seen mating so eggs will hopefully follow soon
We have been in full preparation mode as half term starts next week.  Work is ongoing in the New Hatchery area in the Discovery Zone and also over at the Encounter Zone
We will be experimenting this half term with 2 penguin feed/talks a day, with a new time of 11am
Wildlife wise a Cuckoo flying over was a very early surprise, there has been no sign of Swallow or House Martin yet so this bird is exceptionally early.  Other highlights included Treecreeper, Greenfinch and Mistle Thrush.  We also have a Robin nest in the back of our leaf sweeper (used 4 hours a week) and as of this morning we have at least 2 chicks!
Thanks for reading

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