Grey Crowned Crane

Balearica regulorum - Grue royale

  • Order 


  • Family


  • Genus


  • Species



Bennett, ET, 1834

  • Size
    : 110 cm
  • Wingspan
    : 180 à 200 cm.
  • Weight
    : 3000 à 4000 g
Geographic range



Grue royale
Grue royale

The sexes are identical.
The plumage of the adult's body is a deep grey that turns lighter on the neck, which gives the species its English name of Grey Crowned Crane (Grey Crowned Crane) in contrast to Black Crowned Crane, with which it is often confused and which has a dark grey to black body and neck.
As with the crowned crane, the upper and lower coverlets are white on both sides of the wing, with a yellow spot on the upper side on the inner large coverings. The secondaries are brown while the primaries are black.
As with its consort, the forehead and front of the crown, very domed, are black, while the back of the crown is a crown of long, erect gold-colored feathers.
But unlike the crowned crane, the cheeks, bare, are white, only marked with a red spot at the top, behind the eye.
The red caruncle the Royal Crane wears on its chin is well developed, much more than the crowned crane where it is barely visible.
The iris is grey-blue, the bill is long, strong and straight. It is dark grey. The legs are grey.
The immatures look like adults, only paler. Their eyes are brown.

Subspecific information 2 subspecies

  • Balearica regulorum regulorum (s Angola and n Namibia to Zimbabwe and e South Africa)
  • Balearica regulorum gibbericeps (s Uganda and Kenya to n Zimbabwe and n Mozambique)

Foreign names

  • Grue royale,
  • Grulla coronada cuelligrís,
  • grou-coroado-austral,
  • Grauhals-Kronenkranich,
  • szürkenyakú koronásdaru,
  • Grijze Kroonkraanvogel,
  • Gru coronata grigia,
  • grå krontrana,
  • Gråkrontrane,
  • žurav kráľovský,
  • jeřáb královský,
  • Grå Krontrane,
  • etelänkruunukurki,
  • Mahem (Mahemkraanvoël),
  • grua coronada collgrisa,
  • koronnik szary,
  • Восточный венценосный журавль,
  • ホオジロカンムリヅル,
  • 灰冕鹤,
  • 灰冠鶴〔東非冕鶴〕,

Voice song and cries

Grue royale

The Grey Crowned Crane vocalises in flight and during nuptial parades. The call is a waou often doubled, deep but with a high tone, which from afar can make one think of a meowing.


Grue royale

The Grey Crowned Crane frequents open and wet habitats such as the banks of rivers, temporarily flooded meadows with shallow water, marshes, or dryer environments like open savannahs near water, where they can look for food.

Behaviour character trait

Grue royale

Grey Crowned Cranes live in pairs, usually within a group of twenty individuals. The roosting groups, in the tall grasses along rivers as well as in trees, can count up to 200 individuals. Just like its cousin the Black Crowned Crane, it is likely that the couple of Grey Crowned Cranes is established for life. The nuptial parade includes bows with mutual preening of feathers, big jumps, and small races, all punctuated with cries, head bowed.


Grue royale

Like the Grey Crowned Crane, the Grey Crowned Crane has to run to take off. It flies with its neck and legs stretched out, its neck slightly lowered. The cries it lets out while flying make it easy to spot.

Dietfeeding habits

Grue royale

The Grey Crowned Crane is omnivorous: its diet includes sedge seeds, young shoots, insects, and other invertebrates, as well as amphibians and small reptiles.

Reproduction nesting

Grue royale

The nest is built by the pair, it is a platform formed of pulled up grasses and trampled rushes at the edge of a wetland and hidden in a vegetation emerging at least one meter above the water. The female lays 1 to 4 eggs which are incubated by both parents.

Geographic range

Grue royale

The Grey Crowned Crane, like the Grey Crowned Crane, is a sub-Saharan species. Its distribution area is separated from that of the Grey Crowned Crane (see this species). The Grey Crowned Crane is present throughout South Africa, up to the DRC in the north, and in East Africa up to Uganda and Kenya. It is absent from southeastern Tanzania.

Threats - protection

Grue royale
IUCN conservation status
in the Wild

The Grey Crowned Crane is endangered due to the loss and degradation of its feeding zones. Responsible for this are drainage of wetlands, overgrazing, usage of pesticides, uncontrolled burning during reproduction season, and cultivation of arable land. The construction of dams for electricity production, as well as the extraction of groundwater, resulting in changes to the hydrologic regime, all have an impact too.
Moreover, the illegal trafficking of live animals, as well as hunting, is also not insignificant, especially since the Grey Crowned Crane, due to the reduction of its habitat, is being driven to live closer to settlements. Research has proven, for example, that many Grey Crowned Cranes are poisoned annually in Kenya, either as retaliation or to protect sowing from predation.
Finally, bird mortality due to electrocution and collisions with high voltage lines is a serious threat in Uganda, South Africa and Tanzania, and is likely to worsen.
Due to these reasons, and its population having greatly decreased, the Grey Crowned Crane is classified Endangered.

Sources of information

Other sources of interest

QRcode Grue royaleSpecification sheet created on 29/07/2023 by
Translation by AI
© 1996-2024