Open every day of the year
Summer Hours (March 1 - Oct 31)
Admissions Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (8:30 a.m. for Members)
Grounds close at 6 p.m.
Ages 12-64: $15
Ages 65+: $12
Ages 3-11: $10
2 and Under: Free
2014 Free Days: 11/3, 11/14, 11/20
East Africa from northern Uganda and Kenya south to Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia.
This species of bird prefers wetlands with nearby grasslands and cultivated land near rivers and lakes.
What Does It Eat?
In the wild: Seeds, plants, grain, insects, worms, frogs, lizards, small fish and eggs. They forage on agricultural land.
At the zoo: Nutritional crane pellets and assorted greens.
What Eats It?
African predators including hyenas, lions, leopards and cheetahs.
Crowned cranes are social and gregarious birds living in flocks of up to 200 birds during most of the year. During breeding season, mated pairs establish and defend a nesting territory using their loud calls to warn other birds away.
Like other cranes, East African crowned cranes are monogamous and pair for life. During breeding season, both males and females participate in graceful and elaborate mating dances. Once paired, mated couples build a large circular nest, 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.
Dance, Dance, Dance
All cranes participate in spectacular dance routines involving head-bobbing, wing-fluttering, leaps and deep bows, running with wings flapping and even short, low flights. These elaborate dances serve as courtship rituals to attract mates. For young birds, dancing helps develop physical and social skills, but spontaneous dancing can occur anytime during the year. In a flock of cranes, if one bird starts dancing soon all the others join in. In many cultures, including American Indians, Australian Aborigines, African tribes and the Ainu of Japan, humans mimic crane dances.
Stamp Your Feet
Crowned cranes stomp their feet as they walk across grasslands. This flushes out insects and other potential prey that the cranes quickly catch and eat. Cranes are also often seen moving among herds of large mammals to feed on the insects frightened by herd movement.
Living in large flocks, cranes have developed several methods of communication. All cranes are noted for their loud calls that can be heard over three miles (five km) away. Crane chicks start learning the meaning of various calls soon after they hatch. The unique “unison call” of a mated pair of crowned cranes announces their presence in occupied territory and warns other birds away. This call is a duet that begins when the male emits a series of long, low calls. The female answers with several short, high-pitched calls. Other nearby crane pairs return the calls to establish their territory resulting in a chorus of crane calls echoing across the area. Other forms of crane communication include body postures and displays that can signal aggression, threats or submission toward other birds.
IUCN Status: Least Concern (as Balearica regulorum) Cranes need large areas of habitat but rapidly increasing human populations in Africa have converted crane habitat for farms and housing. Even the marshlands needed for nesting sites are being drained for agricultural purposes. Other threats to the birds include heavy pesticide use, livestock overgrazing, live trapping for the export trade and hunting. Conservation measures have been undertaken to protect cranes and in 1973 the International Crane Foundation was established to oversee the survival of crane species worldwide. This species remains common over much of its historic range.
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