Wattled Crane at the Louisville Zoo

Crane, Wattled

Order: Gruiformes
Family: Gruidae
Genus: Bugeranus
Species: carunculatus

Ethiopia, Central and Southern Africa. The Okavango Delta in Botswana is one of the most important breeding grounds.

Large open areas of wet grassland, sedge marsh and river edge.

4 feet tall.

Wild: Unknown.
Captivity: Up to 25 – 40 years or longer.


  • Monogamous, forming pair bonds for life.
  • Reproductive state of both male and female is synchronized by bodily cycles, weather and length of daylight.
  • Courtship displays include nuptial dancing, unison calls, running and jumping into the air. Unison calls are produced during the first days of breeding season only.
  • Mated pairs build a circular nest of marsh grasses.
  • Usually only one buff, spotted egg is laid. If two eggs are laid and both hatch, one chick is left at the nest site to perish.
  • Incubation takes 32 – 40 days. Both parents incubate the egg, care for and feed the chick.
    The chick remains with the parents until it develops flight feathers at 10 – 12 months. It then forms a flock with other non-breeding birds.
  • Chicks reach sexual maturity at four years.

Wild: Chiefly sedge, tubers and rhizomes. Occasionally grain, seeds, insects, snails, small fish, frogs and reptiles.
Captivity: Crane mix and mice


  • Diurnal and omnivorous.
  • Non-breeding birds flock together to socialize, feed, bathe and roost.
  • Though usually silent, these birds can produce loud calls amplified by their convoluted windpipe inside their breastbone.
  • Cranes may emit a low purr while feeding and tending chicks or when encountering other cranes.
  • Wattled cranes of all ages dance, a combination of head bobbing, running, bowing and leaping.


  • Though highly aquatic, wattled cranes do not have webbed feet. Hence they are restricted to shallow waters.
  • Males have larger wattles than females.
  • Males can shake their wattle in a threatening display.

Endangered (Appendix II of CITES). They are threatened due to a low reproductive rate, loss of wetland habitat and hunting.

Cranes of the World, Lawrence Walkinshaw, 1973.
Encyclopedia of Birds, Edited by Christopher M. Perrins
Fundamentals of Ornithology, Jocelyn Zamtyne & Andrew Berger, 1961
Jewel of the Kalahari, Karen Ross, 1987
Managing the Great African Crane, Gary Michael, Curator of Birds, Louisville Zoo Trunkline Aug/Sept. 1992
National Geographic. Dec. 1990 Botswana
Rare Birds of the World, A. Collins, 1988
The Birds of Africa, Vol. II Edited by Emil K. Urvan