Black Crowned Crane

Zwarte kroonkraanvogel

Black Crowned Crane (Balearica pavonina)

The Black Crowned Crane (Balearica pavonina) is a bird from the family of cranes (Gruidae).

Species name

Dutch name:
Zwarte kroonkraanvogel
English name:
Black Crowned Crane
German name:
French name:
Grue couronn
Scientific name:
Balearica pavonina

Scientific classification




The body of the Black Crowned Crane is mostly black, with distinctive white upper and under wing coverts. The head is topped with a crown of stiff golden feathers. Cheek patches are red and white. The subspecies are most easily distinguished by the differences in the coloration of their cheek patches. In the West African subspecies, the lower half of the cheek patch is red; in the Sudan subspecies, the red extends into the upper half of the cheek patch. The gular sac under the chin is small and dark. The gular sac is similar to a wattle, except that it can be inflated. Legs, toes, and bill are black. All crowned cranes have the ability to perch because their long hind toe (halux) allows for grasping.

Males and females are virtually indistinguishable, although males tend to be slightly larger.

Juveniles are generally blackish, the upper body feathers are edged with rufous, and the lower body feathers are sandy buff. The nape is brown, the face is feathered and buffy, and the crown is spiky and golden buff. 


Cranes form monogamous pairs and can be extremely territorial, particularly in the breeding season. Care is required when introducing intended mates to each other, to avoid injury to one or both birds; formation of a good pair bond can take time.

Cranes are unlikely to breed if they feel insecure, such as in mixed species enclosures with hoofstock, or if there is no part of their enclosure which is free from daily human disturbance.

Standard Measurements

Body Length (cm):
The male (drake) of the Black Crowned Crane measures approximately 950 centimeters. The female measures approximately 950 centimeters.
Body Weight (grams):
The male will weight about 3600 gram. The female will weight about 3600 gram.
The weight is notoriously variable and can only be used as indication!

Known subspecies:

  • Balearica pavonina pavonina - West African Black-crowned Crane (West African)
  • Balearica pavonina ceciliae - Eastern Black Crowned Crane (Sudan)

Basically all that is needed to keep and breed cranes is a predator proof confine equipped with a grassy field, clean drinking water, commercial turkey breeder pellets, and in temperate latitudes, a small winter shelter with open door facing south. It is not imperative to have an open body of water; however, cranes do bathe and a small pool is recommended.

Properly pinioned birds are successfully held behind an 2.5 meter fence. The fence should be buried 20 cm to minimise terrestrial predation. Use 2.5 cm mesh wire for the first 30 cm followed by 2 x 10 cm from there on up is recommended. 


Cranes are easily maintained and induced to breed in captivity if a few simple rules are followed.

  • Most cranes are wetland species, a few being primarily grassland species. They should be given the opportunity to wade and bathe, and to forage and/or dig for food in natural vegetation and soft soil substrates.
  • Good nutrition such as Lundi special Crane feed, with adequate protein and micronutrient levels, is essential for the general health of the cranes and for breeding.
  • Cranes form monogamous pairs and can be extremely territorial, particularly in the breeding season. Therefore it is important to house each pair of adult cranes in a separate enclosure from other cranes, and preferably not directly adjacent to another pair of cranes, particularly of the same species. Visual barriers should be put in place between crane enclosures before the breeding season
  • If possible, rotational pens should be provided, such that a pen can be left empty in alternate years, to reduce soil burdens of parasites and pathogenic microorganisms which may otherwise build up to problematic levels; this is particularly important if chicks are to be parent-reared, to avoid overwhelming exposure to e.g. gapeworm very early.

Crowned cranes can be kept on large lawn areas with other wading birds or with waterfowl.

Black-crowned cranes are less hardy than the other cranes, probably the least cold-tolerant. Although they cope quite well with northern European climates, they need a dry, draught-free and frost-proof indoor shelter in winter (and need to be shut  into this at night in cold weather) and in colder areas also additional heat.

They may need to be kept inside most of the time in very cold weather, although they may benefit from being let out for a short time each day. Toes may get frost-bitten if they are not given sufficient protection! They will readily perch on bales of stray in the shelter if these are offered; this may help avoid frostbitten toes. They appreciate cover; will shelter behind bushes and perch on logs. They may be seen lying down basking in the sun. They do not appear comfortable in exposed, windy enclosures.

Can be kept in a large aviary, and with other birds, but separation is recommended for breeding, particularly during chick-rearing. Shelter may be advisable during chick-rearing.

    The female Black Crowned Crane usually lays from 3-4 bluish white (light blue or pink when laid, shell rough, sometimes slightly glossy) eggs and incubates them for 28-31 days.

    Bird banding:
    Recommended closed leg band ring size for the Black Crowned Crane is 18 mm.
    The leg band ring can only be applied on a young bird at around 16 days old.

    It doesn't matter what leg that you band, but it's good to have a consistent system.
    Suggested: Left leg = Female, Right leg = Male
    Maintenance food:
    Lundi Kranich Regular
    Lundi Kranich Regular
    Lundi Kranich Regular
    Lundi Kranich Regular

    The Lundi Crane Regular is much more than just an animal feed. Your pets will love the food.

    CITES bijlage A

    Photos of the Black Crowned Crane