Black Crowned Crane

Balearica pavonina

Author: Taiwo Adams

The black-crowned crane Balearica pavonina belongs to the Family Gruidae, along with its sister species, the grey crowned crane. It is quite distinct and characterized with a bristle-feathered golden crown. The black crowned crane is regarded as a symbol of peace and is officially recognized as the national bird of Nigeria.

It is found across the Sahel and Sudan Savanna regions of Africa, where it occupies shallow wetlands, marshes and grasslands. During the wet season, wetlands act as its principal breeding, feeding and roosting sites although it can also be found foraging in grasslands and near croplands of dry savanna. The Black-crowned crane is a generalist, feeding on a wide range of diets including insects molluscs, fish, amphibians, and small reptiles. They may sometimes forage in upland areas by livestock where insect numbers are high. Breeding takes place between May and December and nests are constructed with grasses and sedges on the edges of wetlands with clutch sizes ranging between 1 and 3 eggs.

Listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List category, the species is faced with various threats affecting their breeding and roosting sites. Habitat degradation, modification and fragmentation have severely impacted their populations, affecting food resource availability.  Furthermore, hunting and trading of these birds have further aggravated the population decline of this species.