Scientific Name: Bugeranus carunculatus
IUCN Status: Vulnerable
Quick Fact: the wattled crane can stand nearly 6 feet tall, and is one of the tallest of the 15 species of cranes
Learn More: visit the International Crane Foundation to learn more about conservation programs in sub-Saharan Africa
One of the largest of the cranes, the Wattled crane is pale grey with a long white neck, black cap, bare red facial skin and white feathered pendant wattles on the throat. Elongated inner secondary wing feathers look like a long tail. The Wattled crane is a threatened species, with only several thousand pairs left. Its main habitat is extensive open wetlands and open grasslands. It will form flocks, often preferring to join other birds and grazing mammals, and is nomadic in response to flood and drought cycles. When feeding it often places its head and neck in the water. It eats sedge tubers, rhizomes, seeds, insects, and frogs. In courtship, both sexes give a shrill call in unison, coiling the neck over the back and extending the head and bill upward. The courtship dance entails high jumps in the air, bowing, tossing grass into the air, and calling in unison. They build an enormous grass nest low in marsh areas.
In early 2012, a wattled crane chick hatched and was raised by its parents. This hatching was significant because it is the first chick for the parents, and because the hatching is part of a cooperative scientific breeding program between the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) Crane Species Survival Plan (SSP) and Conservation Center for Species Survival (C2S2) to help save this and other endangered crane species. White Oak is a member of C2S2 and collaborates with the Crane SSP and partners at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and the Wilds.