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Wattled Crane
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Bugeranus carunculatus
ORDER: Gruiformes
FAMILY: Gruidae
RANGE: southern Africa
HABITAT: shallow wetlands
DIET: bulbs, corms, insects, seeds, leaves and acorns
Status: threatened

The wattled crane is Africa’s largest crane, standing about four feet tall, and also is the most threatened. The bird is gray above and black below, with white breast and neck, dark gray crown and black legs. Reddish-white wattles hang from the dark-reddish face. The bird is generally silent with an occasional loud horoonnk. Usually found in pairs, or in large flocks, openly foraging.

Monogamous, the nesting pairs establish and defend large territories, generally in shallow wetlands with minimal human disturbance. Both sexes build the nest, which is a circular platform of shaggy grasses, out in the open and surrounded by water. Nest concealment seems unnecessary since the wattled crane, with its large and sharp bill is able to ward off most predators. Clutch size is one or two eggs, but only one chick is reared. If two eggs are laid, the parents lead the first chick away from the nest after the egg hatches, leaving the second egg to die.

Wattled cranes build as many as four nests and use a different nest each year. Both sexes incubate the eggs for about 35 days and both share in the feeding of the young. The chicks begin to fly at 14-to-18 weeks and fly strongly by 21 weeks, but remain with the parents until they are 10-to-21 months old. Sexual maturity is reached at about four years.