Crowned by nature: a nestling of rare cranes hatched at the Moscow Zoo

May 30
Parks and pedestrian areas

A nestling of rare crowned crane hatched at the Moscow Zoo. Birds native to West and East Africa were so named due to a high yellow crest on their heads resembling a golden crown. And although the wild population is still large (according to ornithologists, it amounts to 40 thousand specimens), the number of birds is inexorably decreasing, so crowned cranes are red-listed.

“The first offspring of crowned cranes often does not survive. Our zoo dwellers were inexperienced, and ornithologists feared the cranes would not be able to take care of the nestling. We decided not to risk health of the baby bird and relocated it to a separate aviary in the House of Birds pavilion. Zoologists have nursed the baby crane themselves. In the first days the nestling was covered by brown fluff and looked like a chick, now it has grown up and got covered with bright feathers. It is healthy and takes a lively interest in everything around him”, said Svetlana Akulova, Director General of the Moscow Zoo.

To healthily develop, nestlings of African crane need to move a lot, so that their naturally long legs become strong and muscular. While it was cold outside, the keepers walked the nestling in the pavilion. When the temperature reached 20 degrees Celsius, the nestling was walked outdoor for the first time.

Meanwhile, one can admire the chick watching a short video on In the future, photos and videos of the baby crane will be posted in the zoo’s social media, so that one can watch it grow.

Crowned cranes are generalist feeders. They are omnivorous, they willingly eat both animal and plant food. The food ration of the newborn dweller of the Moscow Zoo gradually expanded by adding a new product every day. Now its menu includes gammarus (dried freshwater maxillopods), egg white, cottage cheese, carrots, cereals, as well as special concentrate feed for cranes made of locusts and crickets.

The crowned crane is a very old bird species. The earliest remains of this species date from the Eocene. Images of crowned birds were found in caves of primitive people.

In the wild, these cranes are found in savannas located to the south of the Sahara Desert and also in Ethiopia, Burundi, Sudan, Uganda. These birds usually settle near swamps with fresh water, in flood meadows and on the banks of water reservoirs. 

Crowned cranes have a bright appearance. Their body is mostly black or dark gray. Cheeks, upper and lower sections of their wings are covered with white feathers. The crest on the head consists of stiff yellow feathers. Under the chin cranes have a red gular sac. Another distinctive feature of this rare species is a long hind toe that allows them to grasp onto branches. Birds overnight mostly in thickset of acacia not to fall prey to predators. They are big and strong birds. Their height can reach one meter and their wingspan is almost two meters. Their weight is from four to five and half kilograms.

These birds are sedentary, but can migrate within their natural range, depending on the season. Outside the breeding season crowned cranes gather in flocks, and when the rain comes they split into pairs and brood. They coordinate actions of each member of the flock with specific throat sounds.

African cranes are believed to be long livers. Wild specimens live to be 20-30 years old, captured ones live up to 50 years.

A special program to preserve this species was developed in Europe to protect crowned cranes from extinction. The Moscow Zoo actively participates in it. Reserve populations of captured species are bred in various regions of the world.

Nestlings of red-listed curly pelicans also hatched in the Moscow Zoo in April. This is the rarest species of all pelicans. The family consisting of 11 specimens was replenished with two babies. The nestlings will get white feathers when they are one year old, and the adolescent molt will be completed by the age of three. By this time, their heads will be adorned with curly feathers, due to which the species was so named.


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