Last updates


Legal issues

Fr: Grue couronnée
All : Kronenkranich
Esp: Grulla Coronada Cuellinegra
Ital: Gru pavonina
Nd: Kroonkraanvogel
Sd: Svart krontrana


Steve Garvie
RAINBIRDER Photo galleries

Nicole Bouglouan

Text by Nicole Bouglouan


HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD Volume 3 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliott-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN : 8487334202

BIRDS OF AFRICA SOUTH OF THE SAHARA by Ian Sinclair and Peter Ryan - Princeton University Press Princeton and Oxford - ISBN: 0691118159

BIRDS OF THE GAMBIA AND SENEGAL by Clive Barlow and Tim Wacher – Helm Field guides – ISBN: 0713675497

L’ENCYCLOPEDIE MONDIALE DES OISEAUX - Dr Christopher M. Perrins -  BORDAS - ISBN: 2040185607

Avibase (Lepage Denis)

BirdLife International (BirdLife International)

ARKive (Christopher Parsons)

International Crane Foundation


Home page

Page Family Gruidae

Summary cards


Black Crowned Crane
Balearica pavonina

Gruiforme Order – gruidae Family

Length: 100-105 cm
Wingspan: 180-200 cm
Weight: 3-4 kg

The Black Crowned Crane is a messenger of peace in Kenya’s cultural life.
People often confuse this species with the very similar Grey Crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum), but they have different range. 


Adult has mostly dark grey to blackish body and neck. The wings show white wing coverts, as well above as below. The primary flight feathers are black, whereas secondary and tertial are bright chestnut.
We can see a yellow patch on the inner greater coverts, formed by elongated fine feathers also visible on closed wings.
The underwing is similar but the yellow feathers lack.

On the head, the forehead and the forecrown are black. The cheeks have white upper half and reddish lower half. On the chin, the red wattles are relatively small or even absent.
The rear crown shows a beautiful pale golden crest of stiff feathers forming a crown.
The long, straight bill is greyish-black. The eyes are pale blue. The long legs and feet are greyish-black.

Both sexes are similar.
The juvenile is greyish-brown with brown crown and nape. The eyes are brown. The crest is smaller than in adults. The upperparts show rufous-edged feathers.

We find two subspecies:
B.p. pavonina is found in sub-Saharan West Africa, from Senegambia to Chad.
B.p. ceciliae occurs in sub-Saharan Africa too, but from Chad to Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya.    
The race "ceciliae" has more red in cheeks extending upwards, with only a small white patch on the upper cheek.

The Black Crowned Crane usually gives low-pitched, loud honks “ka-wonk” or “wonk”.
This crane calls while flying and during the courtship displays.
It utters soft purring notes with the chicks.

The Black Crowned Crane frequents mixed grasslands and shallow wetlands. It is often found in flooded wetlands, ricefields, wet croplands and upland fields in West Africa.
It prefers wet areas in East Africa such as large marshes and wet meadows, and it is often seen close to lakes, rivers or ponds.
This species nests and feeds in upland fields close to wet areas.

The Black Crowned Crane is a sub-Saharan African species.
See above in “subspecies” for the range.

The Black Crowned Crane is gregarious. They forage together, walking slowly with slightly crooked neck, while pecking around on the ground. They feed on insects and other invertebrates such as molluscs and crustaceans, and also take fish, amphibians and reptiles. They also consume plant matter such as seeds from various wild and cultivated species.
They peck food from the surface and rarely dig into the soil. During the drier periods, they can be seen close to livestock where they find great numbers of invertebrates. They may stamp feet, probably to disturb some preys.

During the breeding season, the Black Crowned Crane performs beautiful courtship displays accompanied by calls. They are monogamous and pair-bonds are for life.  
The displays start with mutual and repeated bowing between the mates. Then, they spread their large wings and hop, run and jump into the air with dangling legs.
Before the copulation, one of the birds utters a low call while raising the bill with slightly arched forwards body. If the mate performs the same behaviour, the male circles the female with exaggerated steps, and then, copulation occurs. They may perform mutual preening and they copulate repeatedly long time before the laying.
During the nesting period, both adults defend the territory and chase away any intruders.

The Black Crowned Crane is sedentary, only performing daily and seasonal movements, mainly between the roost and the feeding areas.
They roost together outside the breeding season, often in tall trees such as baobabs.    

The Black Crowned Crane flies with outstretched head, neck and legs. They need to run before to take flight, and gain speed quickly before to lift into the air with a push of the large wings. They land with extended wings and dangling legs, and alight in standing stance, after a final flapping of the wings.
They are powerful fliers and use the thermals for soaring.

The breeding season occurs between July and October, according to the rains.
Both sexes build the nest, a circular platform made with grasses and sedges, often placed along the edges, or within a densely vegetated wetland. 

The female lays 2-3 eggs. Both sexes incubate during about 28-31 days, the female mainly during the night, and both parents take turns during the day.
The chicks are altricial and follow their parents in the nearly uplands for foraging very soon after the hatching. They fledge between 60 and 100 days later.

The Black Crowned Crane feeds on insects such as grasshoppers and flies, and other species. It also catches other invertebrates such as molluscs, crustaceans and millipedes, but also fish, amphibians and reptiles. It consumes plant matter such as seeds of grasses and crops. This crane pecks the food from the surface and rarely digs.

The Black Crowned Crane is threatened by illegal pet trade, degradation, changes and loss of the habitat. The drought destroyed numerous wetlands and grasslands in W Africa, and the overgrazing destroys the tree cover.

The populations of the race “ceciliae” appear relatively stable with slow decreases.
The numbers of the race “pavonina” have dramatically fallen, due to these threats.

Protection and reintroduction programs of the race “pavonina” are in progress and experimental.
The species is protected by laws in most parts of the range, but it is considered as VULNERABLE.