home   about   search

biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Bugeranus carunculatus (Wattled crane) 

[= Grus carunculatus

Lelkraanvoël [Afrikaans]; Igwampi, Iqaqolo [Xhosa]; uBhamukwe [Zulu]; Epanda [Kwangali]; Motlathomo [South Sotho]; Jowori [Shona]; Nyakukolwe [Tsonga]; Lelkraanvogel [Dutch]; Grue caronculée [French]; Klunkerkranich [German]; Grou-carunculado [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Gruiformes > Family: Gruidae

Bugeranus carunculatus (Wattled crane)  Bugeranus carunculatus (Wattled crane) 

Wattled crane, Botswana. [photo Gerhard Theron ©]

Wattled crane, Ethiopia. [photo Toby Austin ©]


Distribution and habitat

Occurs in Ethiopia as well as the area from Zambia, southern DRC and Malawi to southern Africa. Here it is uncommon to rare in north-eastern Namibia (including the Caprivi Strip), northern Botswana, central Zimbabwe and Mozambique, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal. It generally prefers fairly shallow wetlands with emergent vegetation, or surrounded by grassland or miombo (Brachystegia) woodland, sometimes moving to man-made dams and cultivated fields.

Distribution of Wattled crane in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Predators and parasites

  • Predators
    • Felis caracal (Caracal)
  • Parasites
    • Leucocytozoon grusi (haematozoan parasite)

Movements and migrations

Complex, as it is resident in some areas (such as much of South Africa and the Magango Game Reserve and Mamili National Park in Namibia), while it may move into other regions if there is a lot of rainfall. For example it is most common at the Okavango Delta in the period from April-August.


Mainly eats seeds and tubers supplemented with small animal prey, doing most of foraging by touch, digging with its beak in moist soil or shallow water. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Plants
    • tubers of sedges
      • Eleocharis angulata
    • grass seeds
  • Animals
    • small aquatic snails
    • fish
    • frogs


  • Monogamous, solitary nester, with breeding pairs performing dancing courtship and recognition displays.
  • The nest (see image below) is built by both sexes, consisting of a mound of aquatic vegetation with a central cup, often surrounded by a moat of open water. It may also use a submerged rock in a stream, a grassy hollow in an islet, flooded anthills on a dam or an old Spur-winged goose nest.
Bugeranus carunculatus (Wattled crane)

Wattled cranes at their nest, Mpumalanga, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is year-round, peaking from April-September.
  • It lays 1-2 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 31-40 days.
  • The chicks are precocial, leaving the nest soon after hatching, although staying close for about three weeks, at which point the parents lead them further away. At first the chicks are extremely aggressive to each other, often resulting in mortality. They return to the nest every night to roost until they are about 100 days old, taking their first flight at about 90-130 days old. They become fully independent roughly 7-12 months later, driven away by their parents so that they join a non-breeding flock before the following breeding season.


Globally Vulnerable, while Critically endangered in South Africa, mainly caused by wetland destruction and degradation, as well as damming, afforestation, trampling of nests, overgrazing, housing development, too frequent fires and other forms of human disturbance.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.