The Plight of the Rare Wattled Crane

Wattled Crane1 Wattled Crane2

Ten thousand birds.

That sounds like a sky full, and this many birds in one place would seem to be an immense amount.

Spread over the country however, this number is alarmingly small.  This is an (exaggerated) estimate of the number of rare Wattled Cranes left in .  They have been spotted mainly in KwaZulu-Natal extending north, as well as in the Zimbabwean highlands.

These beautiful birds have very interesting habits
Choosing to breed only in the wetlands, Wattled Cranes maintain their territory, and build their nests at least 500 metres apart surrounded by water.  Only one or two eggs are laid at once, and from there, it is survival of the fittest.  Once the first egg hatches, if there is a second egg, it is abandoned.  Two Wattled Crane chicks together will fight to the death.

The chick looks a lot like a duckling and can walk and swim almost immediately after birth, sticking close to its parents.  It is taught to feed on bulbs and corn, and within three months can grow to the size of an adult, a month later it will take to the skies on its first flight – if it is lucky enough to have survived this to point.

Only one in three broods produces a fledged chick
There are many threats that pose a serious danger to them – if they are not eaten by predators before they have even hatched, they are at risk of dying in winter grass fires, and even from hailstones.

When its parents are ready to breed again, the chick is driven away, and must be ready to fend for itself.

Before the chicks are sexually mature, which can take between four and eight years, the young birds form roving flocks mixing company with crowned and blue cranes.  They forage on grain, which could be their greatest threat, as they ingest pesticides, or are caught by humans and eaten.

If they survive the perils of their lifestyles, Wattled Cranes can live up for 20 to 30 years, with some known to have survived up to an amazing 80 years.

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