West African crowned crane

Balearica pavonina pavonina

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IUCN Conservation Status –
Least Concern
Extinct In The Wild

Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Gruidae

You’ll find our two males West African crowned cranes – called Turnip and Swede – opposite our mixed wallaby and pademelon enclosure.

West African crowned cranes have a dark grey plumage with red cheek patches and a crown of stiff golden feathers.

They are omnivores and feed on grasses, seeds and some roots, as well as insects such as grasshoppers, locusts and flies. They will also eat molluscs, fish, crustaceans, amphibians and small reptiles.

This species lives in open grasslands, marshes and meadows near lakes and streams. Unlike other species of crane, West African crowned cranes are also known to roost in trees.

Interesting facts!

  • Cranes have elaborate dances – including bowing, hopping, swaying, jumping, and producing loud calls – which they use to attract mates during the breeding season. Crane chicks begin to practise when they are young, which is thought to help develop their coordination skills.
  • Both males and females will help to incubate eggs, which takes between 28 and 31 days. Males are known to stand guard in the nearby trees, watching over their nest and prepared to signal a threat, as females forage for food.
  • West African crowned cranes are known as living fossils, as records show that they first existed between 37 and 54 million years ago.
  • According to African legend, the cranes gained their beautiful golden crowns when they helped a great chief who had become lost and weak from lack of food or water.


West African crowned cranes are considered Vulnerable in the wild and suffer from a wide range of threats, from droughts and water management measures (such as the creation of dams) to hunting and habitat degradation. Their habitats are being damaged by farming, pollution, oil and gas drilling, and conflict in the region.