110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Nature Scenes: East African crowned crane’s red ‘necklace’ is a sac the bird can fill with air
By Lynn Bowen
posted Feb 17, 2014 - 9:05:04am
Like a lady going to a fancy party, the East African crowned crane looked quite elegant with its golden bristle “hat,” crimson-red “necklace,” and regal, gray cloak, as you can see in the photo accompanying this column. This bird captivates attention wherever it goes!
My husband and I were driving through the Wildlife Safari in Winston, Ore., last summer. The animals run free there, with the exception of a few potentially dangerous ones, and the spectators must stay in their vehicles.
An East African crowned crane just seemed to love our car, because he (or she) stayed very close for about five minutes. We didn’t mind at all!
Although it was strictly against the rules to feed any of the animals, I had a hunch someone had fed this bird a yummy snack and he wanted more.
The natural habitat for this beauty is in eastern and southern Africa in grasslands near water. Usually they travel in pairs or sometimes in family parties, but at night, they roost in trees in flocks up to 100. These are the only cranes that roost, and they can do so because of a long hind toe that can grasp branches.
The crowned crane is 36 to 48 inches tall, with long, dark-gray legs, and large feet, and with gorgeous slate-gray feathers on most of its body. The wings are white with chestnut-colored tips. The long neck is pale gray. The wingspan is 6.5 feet, and the weight is between 6 and 8 pounds.
The male is slightly larger than the female. The red necklace is actually a sac that the crane can fill with air and with which it can make honking sounds. The hat/crown and black face with white cheeks and a small red patch above the cheeks are unique and beautiful features.
The black part of the face and head consists of short feathers, but the red and white colorings are bare skin. The birds’ markings are so precise that it looks like they were made with a small ruler and fine-line marking pens!
East African crowned cranes are omnivorous birds, eating plants, seeds, grain, insects, snakes, frogs and small fish.
They are famous for their dancing, which involves head-bobbing, bowing, wing-fluttering and jumping just like their cousins, the sandhill cranes, which live here in Florida. Both kinds of cranes do their dance at mating time, when excited, or just to play. Seeing them is a thrill, but to watch their antics is really great. East African crowned cranes live approximately 25 years!
What a privilege to see this gorgeous crane up-close!
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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