Uganda’s National Symbol: The Crested Crane

posted in: About Uganda | 1


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The world knows 15 different species of Cranes of which four, including the ‘Grey Crowned Crane’, can be found in Africa. Because of its beauty and elegance, this Grey Crowned Crane, also known as ‘Crested Crane’ was chosen as Uganda’s national symbol nearly 100 years ago. It occupies a prime position on the country’s national flag. The Crested Crane belongs to the most cherished birds in the country, which is no wonder since it definitely is an object of great beauty.

The bird is about 100 cm tall and stands on long, slender, black legs. When it walks it is with grace and serenity. Its neck is almost as long as its legs and towards the base, pointed pearl-grey feathers are elongated to form an ornamental fringe.

The tail feathers, comparatively short, have the color of dried straw. When at rest, the Crested Crane seems to be enveloped in a cape of exquisite delicacy with its multi-colored head where the three colors of Uganda’s flag (black, yellow, red) are clearly present. The conspicuous velvety black forehead, yellowish crest and the vivid bright red wattles, make the Crested Crane an elegant bird, absolutely befitting its symbolic role.

Different tribes and people have learnt over the years how to interact with the bird. In many areas the Crested Crane helps to tell people the time of the day through their calls, which can be heard at specific times of the day. In most parts of the country, they are seen as birds of joy and relaxation. It is for example known that, when people clap and sing a particular song, the birds will dance by nodding their heads!

Whenever spending time on Lake Bunyonyi, where nature is still pretty pristine, it’s always an amazing experience to spot the beautiful bird, always in couples. Unfortunately, their habitat has become increasingly smaller over the last decades; today, they are clearly more seen in the southwestern part of Uganda than in other parts of the country. Crested Cranes prefer wetlands for breeding and the southwestern part of Uganda still has many wetlands; in other parts of the country many wetlands have been claimed for farming activities. In Lake Bunyonyi, privately owned islands that are not used for farming, and because of that attractive for the birds to find food, can be found.

Despite its serenity, beauty and popularity, the Crested Crane has even become an endangered species. According to statistics, there are currently only about 10,000 to 20,000 of them left in Uganda, where it used to be an estimated 100,000 four decades ago. Habitat loss due to human actions is in huge ways contributing to their declining numbers. 


The Crested Cranes in this video were filmed at Lake Bunyonyi by our Manager, Noah Mubangizi:


Interesting to view is also this video made by Avi Birds:


You may also like to read:
Much Seen at Lake Bunyonyi: the Weaver Bird, Known For its Love Nest.
Travel Guides and Self Travelling Tourists


(Updated February 2023)


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One Response

  1. very valuable information here.
    I am very interested in how much the life of the crested crane is endangered by the human encroachment on wetlands

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