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Balearica regulorum

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA AVES GRUIFORMES GRUIDAE

Scientific Name: Balearica regulorum
Species Authority: (Bennett, 1834)
Common Name(s):
English Grey Crowned-crane, Grey Crowned-Crane, Grey Crowned Crane, Southern Crowned Crane
French Grue royale
Taxonomic Notes:

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A2acd+4acd ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2013-11-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S.
Contributor(s): Coetzee, R., Deliry, C., Dodman, T., Harris, J., Jordan, M., Mabhachi, O., Morrison, K., Nsabagasani, C., Olupot, W., Plumptre, A., Scott, A., Scott, M. & Westphal, K.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Butchart, S., Derhé, M., Ekstrom, J., Malpas, L., Symes, A.
Justification:
This species has been uplisted to Endangered because threats such as habitat loss and the illegal removal of birds and eggs from the wild have driven very rapid declines during the past three generations (45 years).

History:
2012 Endangered

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Balearica regulorum occurs in eastern and southern Africa, with B. r. gibbericeps occurring from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya south through Tanzania to Mozambique, and nominate race B. r. regulorum found from Mozambique south through Zimbabwe to South Africa and west in small numbers to Namibia and Angola. Populations in many areas including Kenya, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Namibia have experienced very rapid declines (Beilfuss et al. 2007, K. Morrison in litt. 2011, National Biodiversity Data Bank in prep., A. Scott in litt. 2012, O. Mabhachi in litt. 2012), although the South African population appears to be stable or increasing (Beilfuss et al. 2007). The largest remaining populations are believed to be in Kenya (17,000-20,000 individuals in 2004), Uganda (13,000-20,000 individuals), the Democratic Republic of Congo (perhaps 5,000 birds), and South Africa (4,000-5,000 birds) (Beilfuss et al. 2007).

Countries:
Native:
Angola (Angola); Botswana; Burundi; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Kenya; Malawi; Mozambique; Namibia; Rwanda; South Africa; Swaziland; Tanzania, United Republic of; Uganda; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Vagrant:
Lesotho
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Beilfuss et al. (2007) estimated the population to number 50,000-64,000 individuals in 2004. Since the population is declining very rapidly, the current population size is likely to be lower than this and so a new population estimate is needed.

Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Behaviour This species is not migratory although it may make variable local and seasonal movements depending on the abundance and distribution of food, nest-sites and rainfall (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The timing of breeding varies in relation to the rains, with the breeding of East African populations peaking during dry periods, but with the breeding of populations in the drier parts of southern Africa peaking during wet periods (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The species nests in solitary territorial pairs (Urban et al. 1986, Hockey et al. 2005) but often flocks together (del Hoyo et al. 1996) and roosts communally at night (Hockey et al. 2005) in groups of up to 20-200 individuals (Urban et al. 1986) during dry periods in the drier part of its range (e.g. Namibia and South Africa) (del Hoyo et al. 1996). The abundance and distribution of food and suitable nesting sites are the key ecological factors determining the size of the home range of this species and the extent of local and seasonal population movements (Meine and Archibald 1996). Habitat The species inhabits wetlands such as marshes, pans and dams with tall emergent vegetation (Hockey et al. 2005), riverbanks (Meine and Archibald 1996), open riverine woodland, shallowly flooded plains (Urban et al. 1986) and temporary pools (del Hoyo et al. 1996) with adjacent grasslands, open savannas, croplands (del Hoyo et al. 1996) (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Meine and Archibald 1996), pastures, fallow fields and irrigated areas (del Hoyo et al. 1996). It shows a preference for short to medium height open grasslands adjacent to wetlands for foraging (Meine and Archibald 1996), and breeds within or at the edges of wetlands (Meine and Archibald 1996) especially in marshes with water 1 m deep and with emergent vegetation 1 m above the water (Urban et al. 1986). It roosts in water along rivers or in marshes, or perches on nearby trees (Urban et al. 1986, Meine and Archibald 1996). Diet The species is a generalist, its diet consisting of seed heads (e.g. of sedges Cyperus spp.), new tips of grasses (del Hoyo et al. 1996), agricultural pulses, nuts and grain (Meine and Archibald 1996), insects (Orthoptera, larval Lepidoptera), frogs, lizards and crabs Potamon spp. (del Hoyo et al. 1996). Breeding site The nest is a circular platform of uprooted grasses and sedges (del Hoyo et al. 1996) concealed in tall emergent vegetation (greater than 1 m in height) (Urban et al. 1986, Meine and Archibald 1996) in or along the margins of wetlands such as marshes (del Hoyo et al. 1996) with water c.1 m deep (Urban et al. 1986). The species may also rarely nest in trees (del Hoyo et al. 1996).

Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The species is threatened by the loss and degradation of wetland breeding areas through drought-related changes in land-use, drainage and overgrazing (del Hoyo et al. 1996) (e.g. uncontrolled cattle grazing) (Kampamba and Pope 1996), as well as through the heavy use of agricultural pesticides (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Meine and Archibald 1996), declines in fallowing practices, high sedimentation rates (del Hoyo et al. 1996) (due to deforestation [Meine and Archibald 1996]), uncontrolled grass and deep litter fires in the breeding season (Kampamba and Pope 1996), dam construction (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Meine and Archibald 1996) (for hydroelectric power generation [Kampamba and Pope 1996]) and groundwater extraction, leading to changes in hydrological regimes (del Hoyo et al. 1996, Meine and Archibald 1996) (e.g. unseasonal flooding [Kampamba and Pope 1996]). The species is also threatened by live-trapping (for trade), egg-collecting and hunting (Meine and Archibald 1996, Kampamba and Pope 1996, Olupot et al. 2009), and by indirect disturbance from the hunting of large mammals or ducks in wetlands and the activities of fisheries (Kampamba and Pope 1996). Preliminary studies of information from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Namibia have shown that that the illegal captive trade is particularly significant from  Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda (Morrison 2008, 2009), with the demand being domestic (South Africa and Rwanda) and from the Middle/ Far East, and specifically relates to the pet trade, captive facilities and informal zoos (K. Morrison in litt. 2011). Due to human population pressure, the cranes are increasingly living in closer proximity to people, exposing them to disturbance and making them more vulnerable to hunting (W. Olupot in litt. 2011, O. Mabhachi in litt. 2012). It is also persecuted in some areas (e.g. southern Africa) due to its use of agricultural land for foraging (Hockey et al. 2005). Research has found that large numbers of Grey Crowned-cranes are killed annually by poisoning in Kenya, mainly as retaliation or to prevent of crop damage (Morrison 2008, 2009). In South Africa in particular, an increase of coal mining is threatening much of the grassland /wetland habitat where the species breeds (K. Morrison in litt. 2011). Mortality of birds due to electrocution and collision with overhead power lines is a serious threat in Uganda, South Africa and Tanzania and is likely to increase significantly in the future, across its entire range (K. Morrison in litt. 2011, J. Harris in litt. 2012).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. Community-based wetland conservation projects have been undertaken in Kenya, with some captive breeding populations established (ARKive).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Conduct standardised and coordinated surveys to assess the species's total population size. Monitor population trends through regular standardised surveys and extend captive breeding efforts. Monitor rates of habitat loss and degradation. Monitor levels of hunting pressure. Discourage hunting and irresponsible pesticide use through awareness campaigns. Improve species protection and increase enforcement of hunting legislation.


Citation: BirdLife International 2013. Balearica regulorum. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 18 December 2014.
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