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Crane: Grey Crowned Crane

Identify and index birds in Southern Africa

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Johan van Rensburg
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Crane: Grey Crowned Crane

Unread postby Johan van Rensburg » Tue Nov 06, 2007 3:08 pm

Grey crowned crane, Balearica regulorum

The Grey Crowned Crane is the most abundant of the resident African cranes. B. r. regulorum (the South African Crowned Crane) is found in Zimbabwe and South Africa and is classified as endangered. Over the past two decades, Grey Crowned Crane numbers have declined by about 15% due to increased human-induced impacts, only some 4 000 Grey-Crowned Cranes are left in South Africa today.

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Physical characteristics:
The Grey Crowned Crane is about 1 m tall and weighs 3.5 kg. The sexes are similar, although males tend to be slightly larger. Young birds are greyer than adults, with a feathered buff face.

This crane is one of only two crane species to roost in trees and the most primitive crane – it is thought to resemble the many pre-Pliocene fossils from North America and central Asia. The first crane-like birds, which appeared in the age of dinosaurs, were somewhat similar in body dimensions to a modern crowned crane.

Distribution and habitat:
Grey Crowned Cranes are non-migratory, but undertake local and seasonal movements in response to changing moisture levels and food availability. They use mixed wetland-grassland habitats for nesting and foraging. The crane is restricted to the moist eastern, higher rainfall areas of the country, from the Eastern Cape Province, throughout the western parts of KwaZulu-Natal and north-eastern Free State, into the south-eastern regions of Mpumalanga. This species is particularly abundant in higher altitudes such as in the north Eastern Cape and southern KwaZulu-Natal.

Behaviour:
The Grey Crowned Crane has a breeding display involving dancing, bowing, and jumping. It has a booming call and makes a honking sound quite different from the trumpeting of other crane species.

Diet:
Their preferred foraging habitat consists of expanses of short- to medium-height open grasslands adjacent to wetlands. There they feed on the tips of grasses, seeds, insects and other invertebrates, and small vertebrates. They also forage in croplands for groundnuts, soybeans, maize, millet, and other items

Breeding and nesting:
They typically nest within or on the edges of wetlands in areas where wetland vegetation is of sufficient height to conceal the cranes on their nests. While rearing chicks, adult birds will sometimes hide their young in the wetland in the evening, and then fly to roost in trees.

Grey Crowned Cranes are sexually mature at three (rarely two) years. The species lays a clutch of 2-5 eggs and has the largest average clutch size (2.5+) of any crane. Nests consist of uprooted grasses and sedges piled and flattened into a circular platform. The incubation period is 28-31 days. Incubation is performed by both sexes. The fledging period is variable, generally between 56-100 days.
671 Latest lifer: Black coucal

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Neil Crawford
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Unread postby Neil Crawford » Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:24 pm

Hi, Is there any chance of seeing Grey Crowned Crane west of East-London? I read that it's possible to see at Gonubie nature reserve in East London, is it worth making that detour? I saw it's not on the check-list for Addo. How about Wilderness there is a red dot in the Sasol bird guide somewhere along the cape coast, about the middle IIRC.
Is that wishful thinking? I'd love to see one.
/Neil

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Unread postby j-ms » Mon Jan 21, 2008 2:09 pm

The most consistent place to see Crowned Cranes in the Eastern Cape is at Wavecrest on the Wild Coast about 150km east of East London. They have a resident flock that roosts on the beach in front of the hotel.

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Unread postby Neil Crawford » Mon Jan 21, 2008 2:41 pm

I read about Wavecrest, sounds nice, but it's too far off for us. We'll just have to make another trip to South Africa :D
/Neil

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Re: Crane: Grey Crowned Crane

Unread postby RayK » Thu May 28, 2009 1:46 pm

Hi Everyone,
On my trips to Southern Africa I've seen Wattled Crane and also Blue Crane. Both being spectacular. But the Grey Crowned Crane has elluded me. I'll be travelling the full length of Kruger in September--do I have a chance of seeing them there? Thank You.

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Re: Crane: Grey Crowned Crane

Unread postby Lizet Grobbelaar » Thu May 28, 2009 3:06 pm

RayK: Must say I've never seen Crowned Crane in Kruger, but if you drive via Belfast-Dullstroom-Lydenburg(R540) to the Park your chances are pretty good! I've seen them along the main road between Dullstroom and Lydenburg on the open fields on several occasions as well as from the road Lydenburg to Steenkampsberg Pass(R577).They like the agricultural lands. Your chance to see Bald Ibis is also very good on these roads.

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Re: Crane: Grey Crowned Crane

Unread postby JoelR » Thu May 28, 2009 3:08 pm

RayK wrote:...I'll be travelling the full length of Kruger in September--do I have a chance of seeing them there?...

Probably not, RayK. The Kruger bird checklist places Grey Crowned Crane in the category "vagrants, erratic visitors or extremely rare residents" and according to this webpage it has only been recorded in the Skukuza area.

In South Africa the Grey Crowned Crane seems to stick to grass and agricultural lands. However, in Zimbabwe (Hwange) and Zambia (South Luangwa) I have seen the Grey Crowned Crane in (riverine) bush - so if you are extremely lucky one or two might pop up in Kruger! :wink:

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Re: Crane: Grey Crowned Crane

Unread postby RayK » Thu May 28, 2009 4:59 pm

Hi Lizet Grobbelaar,
Thank You for the advice. I'll make sure I drive that route on my way to the Kruger. The search for the elusive Grey Crowned Crane will make the drive that much more enjoyable.

Hi JoelR,
Thank You once again for an answer to a question. It was greatly appreciated.

Ray

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Re: Crane: Grey Crowned Crane

Unread postby Johann » Mon Jun 01, 2009 12:43 pm

Highly unlikely. I would follow Lizet's advice to try and see some. I didn't check the links Joel provided but I did find the following in one of my fieldguides.

Kenneth Newman's Birds of Kruger National Park wrote:Balearica regulorum Eight birds reported in February 1972 near Letaba by G Ardendorff.
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
Albert Einstein

Latest lifers from Kruger NP:
Black Coucal Centropus grillii Swartvleiloerie
Flappet Lark Mirafra rufocinnamomea Laeveldklappertjie

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francoisd
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Re: Crane: Grey Crowned Crane

Unread postby francoisd » Wed Mar 09, 2011 1:52 pm

Found these two in Mapungubwe on 2 February 2011 at 08:34
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Re: Crane: Grey Crowned Crane

Unread postby flying cheetah » Wed Mar 09, 2011 1:54 pm

what a lovely sighting francoisd :thumbs_up:
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Re: Crane: Grey Crowned Crane

Unread postby Guinea Pig » Mon Jan 21, 2013 1:30 pm

Golden Gate Highlands National Park. January 2013
Next to the main road just outside Basotho Cultural Village.

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On a quest to visit 9 new National Parks in October. :dance:

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TrevorC
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Re: Crane: Grey Crowned Crane

Unread postby TrevorC » Tue Jan 07, 2014 2:55 pm

Was amazing to see flocks of in excess of 40 of these birds again :D :D Ugie area - December 2013

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Grey Crowned Crane by trevor.charters, on Flickr
Latest Lifers: Cape Rockjumper, Karoo Long-billed Lark, African Rock-Pipit

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Re: Crane: Grey Crowned Crane

Unread postby naomi c » Fri Oct 03, 2014 9:51 am

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