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What is the largest species of crane in Africa?

The Wattled Crane - Bugeranus carunculatus – is the largest species of crane in Africa.

The Wattled Crane

The Wattled Crane - Bugeranus carunculatus - is by far the most endangered crane species in South Africa with only 240 left. They are the most wetland-dependent of Africa’s crane species and are exceptionally susceptible to disturbance while nesting in wetlands, and will easily desert a nest if disturbed.


It is the largest crane in Africa with the back and wings ashy gray. The feathered portion of the head is dark slaty 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.


Wattled cranes are usually quiet birds. Their calls are high-pitched and include a far-carrying kwaamk bugle-call.


The wattled crane mainly eats aquatic vegetation, but also eats tubers, rhizomes, seeds, small reptiles, frogs and insects. It often submerges its entire head under water when feeding.


Wattled cranes breed only in wetlands. Breeding pairs maintain a territory, so that nests are always at least 500m apart. The nest is a large mound of grasses and sedges placed on a tuft, surrounded by open water. One or two eggs are laid, but only one ever hatches, the other being abandoned. Incubation period is 33-36 days. Fledging period is 135 days. Chicks reach adult height and can fly by four months, but are not sexually mature for 4 to 8 years. 


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