The Grey Crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum) is found in dry savannah in Africa south of the Sahara, although it nests in somewhat wetter habitats. There are two sub-species.
The East African B. r. gibbericeps (Crested Crane), seen here, occurs from eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo through Uganda, of which it is the national bird, and Kenya to eastern South Africa. It has a larger area of bare red facial skin above the white patch than the smaller Balearica regulorum regulorum (South African Crowned Crane) which breeds from Angola south to South Africa.
The Grey Crowned Crane has a breeding display involving dancing, bowing, and jumping. It has a booming call which involves inflation of the red gular sac. It also makes a honking sound quite different from the trumpeting of other crane species.
The nest is a platform of grass and other plants in tall wetland vegetation. The female lays a clutch of 2-5 eggs. Incubation is performed by both sexes and lasts 28-31 days. Chicks fledge at 56-100 days.
The birds stand about 1m tall and weigh 3.5 kg. Its body plumage is mainly grey; the wings are also predominantly white, but contain feathers with a range of colours. The head has a crown of stiff golden feathers. The sides of the face are white, and there is a bright red inflatable throat pouch. The bill is relatively short and grey, and the legs are black. The sexes are similar, although males tend to be slightly larger. Like all cranes, it feeds on insects, reptiles and small mammals.
This specimen was seen at Colchester Zoo, Essex.