Uganda’s gray-crowned crested crane (Balearica regulorum) is one of the gentlest and most graceful birds that exists, the reasons it was chosen to be the national emblem. Aside from the gray-crowned crested crane, there is the black-crowned crested crane and these quite differ in terms of appearance.
Adorned with a crown of stiff golden feathers, white cheek patches, a small red patch on top of the head, pale gray or pale blue eyes, and a red gular sac under the chin, the average gray-crowned crane is approximately 116cm tall and weighs 3.5 kg. These features apply to both male and female species of cranes. However, the young gray-crowned crane; call it the juvenile has a grey to brown body with a brown crown and nape, and its cheeks are feathered.
The bird is an omnivore which means it feeds on both plant and animal matter. Things like millet, rice, corn, peas, mollusks like snails and slugs, insects, fish, amphibians, and reptiles, among others, make up most of its diet. The bird is also gifted with a strong bill which it sometimes uses to dig into the soil in search of roots and bulbs. However this is done on rare occasions as the crane mainly prefers to feed on seed heads of grass, among others, rather than digging up food. The crane’s feeding style is one of the justifications for its adopting easily to human settlements and many can be found living in human-modified landscapes.
These cranes feed and nest within dry and wet areas like on the edges of wetlands, near grasslands, or crop fields. The nests are circular structures made from uprooted grass and is hidden in the dense vegetation on the edges of the wetlands.
One of the most amazing exhibitions of the bird is the courtship dance, where they display their splendor as they sway their beautifully adorned bodies. This ritual has attracted the attention of tourists who like to view them gently glide about.
The breeding period occurs during the dry season where the female crane lays 1 to 4 eggs and which are incubated by both the male and female gray-crowned crane, and lasts between 28 and 31 days. The young ones are bred by both the males and female and fully fledged at 56 to 100 days. The birds Portray a high level of solidarity that exists among them.
Endangered bird specie
The gray-crowned crested crane is one of the vulnerable species of birds in Uganda and globally. This is attributed to environmental degradation which has destroyed their habitats for instance; the drainage of wetlands for human settlement and farming, overgrazing, the use of pesticides, and other dangerous activities like pet-trade and egg collecti0n.
Being the national emblem, it will be such a shame for the treasured crane to become extinct in the years to come. Since its kind is an endangered wild life species, it is estimated that in about 20 years the cranes could become extinct. It is therefore a national concern to save the iconic crested crane as we save the identity of the Pearl of Africa as well.