Wattled crane

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Wattled crane
Wattled Crane 1400.jpg
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Gruidae
Genus: Grus
G. carunculata
Binomial name
Grus carunculata
(Gmelin, 1789)
  • Ardea carunculataGmelin, 1789
  • Bugeranus carunculatus(Gmelin, 1789)

The wattled crane (Grus carunculata) is a large bird found in Africa, south of the Sahara Desert. It is sometimes placed in the monotypic genus Bugeranus.

Bird Warm-blooded, egg-laying vertebrates with wings, feathers and beaks

Birds, also known as Aves or avian dinosaurs, are a group of endothermic vertebrates, characterised by feathers, toothless beaked jaws, the laying of hard-shelled eggs, a high metabolic rate, a four-chambered heart, and a strong yet lightweight skeleton. Birds live worldwide and range in size from the 5 cm (2 in) bee hummingbird to the 2.75 m (9 ft) ostrich. They rank as the world's most numerically-successful class of tetrapods, with approximately ten thousand living species, more than half of these being passerines, sometimes known as perching birds. Birds have wings which are more or less developed depending on the species; the only known groups without wings are the extinct moa and elephant birds. Wings, which evolved from forelimbs, gave birds the ability to fly, although further evolution has led to the loss of flight in flightless birds, including ratites, penguins, and diverse endemic island species of birds. The digestive and respiratory systems of birds are also uniquely adapted for flight. Some bird species of aquatic environments, particularly seabirds and some waterbirds, have further evolved for swimming.

Africa The second largest and second most-populous continent, mostly in the Northern and Eastern Hemispheres

Africa is the world's second largest and second most-populous continent, being behind Asia in both categories. At about 30.3 million km2 including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of Earth's total surface area and 20% of its land area. With 1.2 billion people as of 2016, it accounts for about 16% of the world's human population. The continent is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea to the north, the Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea to the northeast, the Indian Ocean to the southeast and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The continent includes Madagascar and various archipelagos. It contains 54 fully recognised sovereign states (countries), nine territories and two de facto independent states with limited or no recognition. The majority of the continent and its countries are in the Northern Hemisphere, with a substantial portion and number of countries in the Southern Hemisphere.

Monotypic taxon taxonomic group which contains only one immediately subordinate taxon (according to the referenced point of view)

In biology, a monotypic taxon is a taxonomic group (taxon) that contains only one immediately subordinate taxon.



The first formal description of the wattled crane was by the German naturalist Johann Friedrich Gmelin in 1789 under the binomial name Ardea carunculata. [2] [3] Gmelin based his account on the "wattled heron" that had been described and illustrated by the English ornithologist John Latham in 1785. [4] The specific epithet is from the Latin caruncula meaning "a small piece of flesh". [5]

A species description is a formal description of a newly discovered species, usually in the form of a scientific paper. Its purpose is to give a clear description of a new species of organism and explain how it differs from species which have been described previously or are related. The species description often contains photographs or other illustrations of the type material and states in which museums it has been deposited. The publication in which the species is described gives the new species a formal scientific name. Some 1.9 million species have been identified and described, out of some 8.7 million that may actually exist. Millions more have become extinct.

Johann Friedrich Gmelin German naturalist

Johann Friedrich Gmelin was a German naturalist, botanist, entomologist, herpetologist, and malacologist.

John Latham (ornithologist) English physician, naturalist and author

John Latham was an English physician, naturalist and author. His main works were A General Synopsis of Birds (1781–1801) and General History of Birds (1821–1828). He was able to examine specimens of Australian birds which reached England in the last twenty years of the 18th century, and was responsible for naming many of them. These included the emu, sulphur-crested cockatoo, wedge-tailed eagle, superb lyrebird and Australian magpie. He was also the first to describe the hyacinth macaw. Latham has been called the "grandfather" of Australian ornithology.

The wattled crane was formerly placed in its own genus Bugeranus. A molecular phylogenetic study published in 2010 found that the genus Grus within the crane family was not monophyletic and that the wattled crane was a sister species to a clade containing the blue crane and the demoiselle crane. [6] In the resulting reorganization of the genera, the wattled crane was moved to the genus Grus. [7] Some taxonomists retain the wattled crane within Bugeranus. [8] The wattled crane is monotypic: there are no recognised subspecies. [7]

<i>Grus</i> (genus) genus of birds

Grus is a genus of large birds in the crane family.

Blue crane species of bird

The blue crane, also known as the Stanley crane and the paradise crane, is the national bird of South Africa. The species is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.

Demoiselle crane species of bird

The demoiselle crane is a species of crane found in central Eurasia, ranging from the Black Sea to Mongolia and North Eastern China. There is also a small breeding population in Turkey. These cranes are migratory birds. Birds from western Eurasia will spend the winter in Africa whilst the birds from Asia, Mongolia and China will spend the winter in the Indian subcontinent. The bird is symbolically significant in the Culture of India and Pakistan, where it is known as Koonj.


A pair foraging in Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana. Grus carunculata Moremi.jpg
A pair foraging in Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana.

At a height known to range from 150 to 175 cm (4 ft 11 in to 5 ft 9 in), it is the largest crane in Africa and is the second tallest species of crane in the world, after the sarus crane. It is also the tallest flying bird native to Africa second only among all birds to the two species of ostrich. The wattled crane is taller and, despite the appearance of gracility imparted by its sharp but slim beak and slender neck and legs, is the heaviest on average of several very large, long-legged waders in Africa (i.e. the 2 largest African storks, shoebill, greater flamingo, goliath heron). [9] It is also roughly the fourth heaviest African flying bird after the great white pelican, the much more sexually dimorphic kori bustard and cape vulture. [9] The wingspan is 230–260 cm (7 ft 7 in–8 ft 6 in), the length is typically 110 to 140 cm (3 ft 7 in to 4 ft 7 in) and weight is 6.4–8.28 kg (14.1–18.3 lb) in females and 7.5–9 kg (17–20 lb) in males. [10] [11] [12] Among standard measurements, the wing chord length is 61.3–71.7 cm (24.1–28.2 in), the exposed culmen is 12.4–18.5 cm (4.9–7.3 in) and the tarsus is 23.2–34.2 cm (9.1–13.5 in). Going on standard measurements, it is the second largest proportioned crane after the sarus species, outsizing in these respects even the ostentatiously heavier red-crowned crane. Three adult wattled cranes averaged 8.15 kg (18.0 lb). [11] [9] The back and wings are ashy gray. The feathered portion of the head is dark slate gray above the eyes and on the crown, but is otherwise white, including the wattles, which are almost fully feathered and hang down from under the upper throat. The breast, primaries, secondaries, and tail coverts are black. The secondaries are long and nearly reach the ground. The upper breast and neck are white all the way to the face. The skin in front of the eye extending to the base of the beak and tip of the wattles is red and bare of feathers and covered by small round wart-like bumps. Wattled cranes have long bills and black legs and toes. Males and females are virtually indistinguishable, although males tend to be slightly larger. Juveniles have tawny body plumage, lack the bare skin on the face, and have less prominent wattles. The generation length (in years) is 13. [13]

Sarus crane species of bird

The sarus crane is a large nonmigratory crane found in parts of the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and Australia. The tallest of the flying birds, standing at a height up to 1.8 m, they are a conspicuous species of open wetlands in south Asia, seasonally flooded Dipterocarp forests in Southeast Asia, and Eucalyptus-dominated woodlands and grasslands in Australia.

Ostrich family of birds

The ostriches are a family, Struthionidae, of flightless birds. The two extant species of ostrich are the common ostrich and Somali ostrich, both in the genus Struthio, which also contains several species known from Holocene fossils such as the Asian ostrich. The common ostrich is the more widespread of the two living species, and is the largest living bird species. Other ostriches are also among the largest bird species ever.

Gracility is slenderness, the condition of being gracile, which means slender.


The wattled crane occurs in eleven sub-Saharan countries in Africa, including an isolated population in the highlands of Ethiopia. More than half of the world's wattled cranes occur in Zambia, but the single largest concentration occurs in the Okavango Delta of Botswana. Wattled cranes are thought to have historically ranged over a much larger area including coastal West Africa. [14] The range has certainly retracted considerably in historical times.

Ethiopia Country in East Africa

Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country in the northeastern part of Africa, known as the Horn of Africa. It shares borders with Eritrea to the north, Djibouti to the northeast, the de facto state of Somaliland and Somalia to the east, Kenya to the south, South Sudan to the west and Sudan to the northwest. With over 102 million inhabitants, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world and the second-most populous nation on the African continent with a total area of 1,100,000 square kilometres (420,000 sq mi). Its capital and largest city is Addis Ababa, which lies a few miles west of the East African Rift that splits the country into the Nubian and Somali tectonic plates.

Zambia Republic in southern Africa

Zambia, officially the Republic of Zambia, is a landlocked country in south-central Africa. Its neighbors are the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north, Tanzania to the north-east, Malawi to the east, Mozambique to the southeast, Zimbabwe and Botswana to the south, Namibia to the southwest, and Angola to the west. The capital city is Lusaka, located in the south-central part of Zambia. The population is concentrated mainly around Lusaka in the south and the Copperbelt Province to the northwest, the core economic hubs of the country.

Okavango Delta river delta

The Okavango Delta in Botswana is a swampy inland delta formed where the Okavango River reaches a tectonic trough in the central part of the endorheic basin of the Kalahari. All the water reaching the delta is ultimately evaporated and transpired and does not flow into any sea or ocean. Each year, about 11 cubic kilometres (2.6 cu mi) of water spread over the 6,000–15,000 km2 (2,300–5,800 sq mi) area. Some flood waters drain into Lake Ngami. The area was once part of Lake Makgadikgadi, an ancient lake that had mostly dried up by the early Holocene.

At Franklin Park Zoo, Massachusetts, USA. Portrait showing distinctive wattles Bugeranus carunculatus -Franklin Park Zoo, Massachusetts, USA-8a.jpg
At Franklin Park Zoo, Massachusetts, USA. Portrait showing distinctive wattles

The wattled crane has been spotted in Uganda for the first time in 2011, seen in the Kibimba Rice region in the eastern side of the country. This sighting brings the total number of bird species in Uganda to 1040. [15]

In April 2018, a new population of Wattled Cranes was discovered in Angola. [16]

Habitat and diet

Wattled cranes inhabit fairly inaccessible wetlands under most conditions. It requires shallow marsh-like habitats with a good deal of sedge-based vegetation. All cranes are omnivorous. The principal food of the wattled crane is mainly aquatic eating the tubers and rhizomes of submerged sedges and water lilies. It is one of the more herbivorous of extant cranes. The other primary portion of the diet consists of aquatic insects. They will supplement the diet with snails, amphibians and snakes when the opportunity arises. Roughly 90% of foraging done by this species occurs in shallow waters. They typically forage by digging vigorously with their bill into the muddy soil. On occasion, it will eat grain and grass seed as well, but does so much less often than the other three African crane species. [11]


displaying wings Wattled crane (Grus carunculata) displaying wings.jpg
displaying wings

There does seem to be some seasonal movements in this crane species, but they are not well-known. Movements seem to be dictacted by local water conditions rather than by seasonal temperature variations. During local floods, the number of wattled cranes can increase from almost none to as much as 3,000 individuals. These movements, in pursuit of ideal feeding conditions, seem more opportunistic movement rather than a fixed migration pattern. On the other hand, there has been observed a migration movement from the high to the low plateaus in Mozambique for the species. [11]

Somewhat gregarious outsize of the breeding season, flocks of wattled cranes can often include 10 or more birds, occasionally as many as 89 individuals. The crowned cranes occasionally interact with this species but, given those species largely terrestrial foraging patterns, this is uncommon. Two species are known to associate closely with wattled cranes due to shared habitat and dietary preferences: the antelope known as the lechwe and the spur-winged goose, the latter nonetheless usually being found in slightly deeper waters. There is no data on significant predation on the wattled crane, as its size often insures it from being killed. Jackals may be occasional predators of chicks. [11]

Wattled cranes commence their breeding season around April. Most nest are sloppily crushed impressions of grass along the border of a marsh. They may use an old spur-winged goose nest or make their own. Eggs are laid approximately 3 weeks after the nests are built. The average clutch size of the species is reportedly the smallest of any of the world's cranes, with an average of 1.6 eggs. Even if there are two eggs, usually only one chick successfully survives to hatch or fledge. The incubation period, roughly 33 to 36 days, is on average the longest of any crane and both parents participate. The chicks are immediately fed by both parents, which take shifts. After around 80 days, the chick(s) start to forage with their parents. At the first sign of any danger, the parents force their young into tall grasses to hide. The fledging period occurs at 100–150 days, the longest it takes any crane to fledge. The young remain with their parents for up to a year (when the next breeding period starts) and may gather in flocks with unrelated juveniles. [11]


Destruction, alteration, and degradation of wetland habitats constitute the most significant threats to the wattled crane, perhaps one of the most habitat sensitive of all cranes. Hydroelectric power projects and other water development have caused fundamental changes in the species expansive floodplain habitats, and their most important food source Eleocharis spp. Human and livestock disturbance, powerline collisions, mass aerial spraying of tsetse flies, and illegal collection of eggs, chicks and adults for food are also significant threats to wattled cranes throughout their range.

The wattled crane is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies. [17] It is listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List. [1]


  1. 1 2 Butchart, S. & Taylor, J. (2008). "Grus carunculatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature . Retrieved 31 July 2010.
  2. Peters, James Lee, ed. (1934). Check-list of Birds of the World. Volume 2. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 153.
  3. Gmelin, Johann Friedrich (1788). Systema naturae per regna tria naturae : secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (in Latin). Volume 1, Part 2 (13th ed.). Lipsiae [Leipzig]: Georg. Emanuel. Beer. p. 643.
  4. Latham, John (1785). A General Synopsis of Birds. Volume 3 Part 1. London: Printed for Benj. White. p. 82, Plate 78.
  5. Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 92. ISBN   978-1-4081-2501-4.
  6. Krajewski, C.; Sipiorski, J.T.; Anderson, F.E. (2010). "Mitochondrial genome sequences and the phylogeny of cranes (Gruiformes: Gruidae)". Auk. 127 (2): 440–452. doi:10.1525/auk.2009.09045.
  7. 1 2 Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2019). "Flufftails, finfoots, rails, trumpeters, cranes, limpkin". World Bird List Version 9.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 26 June 2019.
  8. Archibald, G.W.; Meine, C.D.; Garcia, E.F.J. (2017). del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). "Wattled Crane (Bugeranus carunculatus)" . Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 3 July 2017.
  9. 1 2 3 Dunning, John B. Jr., ed. (2008). CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses (2nd ed.). CRC Press. ISBN   978-1-4200-6444-5.
  10. "Wattled Crane". savingcranes.org. International Crane Foundation. Retrieved 31 July 2010.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Johnsgard, P.A. (1983). Cranes of the World. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. I: 29. ISBN   0253112559.
  12. Sinclair, I. (2017). Complete photographic field guide Birds of Southern Africa. Penguin Random House South Africa.
  13. BirdLife International 2018. Bugeranus carunculatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T22692129A129880815. https://doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22692129A129880815.en. Downloaded on 07 May 2019.
  14. "Wattled Crane". birdlife.org. BirdLife International . Retrieved 31 July 2010.
  15. Wattled crane brings the total bird species to the 1040 mark in Uganda. Safari.co.uk (2011-06-24). Retrieved on 2012-08-23.
  16. https://www.savingcranes.org/notes-from-the-president-new-wattled-crane-populations-discovered-in-angola/
  17. "Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds: Annexe 2" (PDF). unep-aewa.org. AEWA . Retrieved 31 July 2010.

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