Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wattled Crane

Bugeranus carunculatus
There are 15 species of Crane in the world, and we've talked about a few of them already-- tall, elegant birds that are symbols of luck and serve as national icons. (On a side note, you can see all fifteen Crane species in one place at the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, WI. I'll make it out there one of these days...)

Anyway, today's Crane is a little less... beautiful... than some of its relatives. But it is still a very statuesque bird, albeit one with some interesting facial features. The Wattled Crane, as I'm sure you can deduce, has a red, warty-looking wattle that hands down from its neck and beak. Though its face is a little different, it still has the same long legs and feathers possessed by members of its family. (The tail feathers are so long they nearly touch the ground!)

Wattled Crane
Wattled Cranes are actually the tallest Cranes in Africa, and the second tallest Cranes in the world-- they can stand as high as 6" (1.8m). They also sport an 8.5ft (2.6m) wingspan. You'll find them living in the wetlands of Sub-Saharan countries, with the largest groups found in Zambia, and in Botswana's Okavango Delta.

The Wattled Cranes, like all Cranes, are omnivores. They feed on insects, grains, seeds, amphibians, and aquatic plants. Also in true Crane fashion, they perform elaborate courtship rituals and pair bonding dances. They jump, flap, bow, and vocalize during these performances. Wattled Cranes mate for life, and live in small flocks. They build nests on the ground, and lay only one egg or two each season (though usually only one will survive).

Sadly, the Wattled Crane is a Vulnerable species. Because they are so Wetland dependent (other African Cranes are more terrestrial) they are especially susceptible to habitat loss due to draining and development. There are around 8,000 left in the wild.

IUCN Status : Vulnerable
Location : Africa
Size : Height up to 6ft (1.8m), Wingspan up to 8.5ft (2.6m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Gruiformes
Family : Gruidae -- Genus : Bugeranus -- Species : B. carunculatus

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