Longevities of cranes

Blue Crane


There are 15 species of cranes, found on 5 continents (not South America or Antarctica). The cranes are among most threatened bird families globally, with about ¾ of species listed as threatened.

Cranes are elegant birds, with haunting calls and energetic courtship dances. Cranes are found in a wide variety of open habitats, but most prefer wet areas and grasslands. All cranes fly with their necks stretched out, rather than folded in an S shape like herons. Cranes have long legs, necks and bills. The sexes are similar, but males are a bit larger than females.

Grey Crowned Crane, flying in the mist


The crane family is divided into two subfamilies, the crowned cranes (Balearicinae) and the “typical” cranes (Gruinae).

Africa has six crane species: Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus, Wattled Crane Bugeranus carunculatus, Grey Crowned Crane Balearica regulorum, Black Crowned Crane Balearica pavonina, Demoiselle Crane Anthropoides virgo, and Eurasian Crane Grus grus.

The Blue Crane is the national bird of South Africa (and a near endemic), and the Grey Crowned Crane is the national bird of Uganda. The Wattled Crane is the emblem of BirdWatch Zambia, the BirdLife partner in this country.

Wattled Crane, from wikipedia


Ringing and longevities

Three species of cranes are found in southern Africa. Ringed birds are mostly young birds, or sometimes rehabilitated birds, so the totals are relatively low. Many of the cranes are colour ringed, providing some resighting data. Longevities in captivity indicate that cranes could live several decades in the wild – ringing totals are too low to show comparable records.

Table 1. Ringing stats for crane species, from the SAFRING database (extracted 16 May 2020).

 Sp no  Species   Ringed / resight / recovered  Longevity  Ring no  Age in captivity
  214  Grey Crowned Crane   149 / 1 / 3  7y 0m 9A31073   28 y
  215  Wattled Crane   177 / 7 / 2 10y 9m J12624   45 y
  216  Blue Crane   1360 / 172 / 62  12y 10m  52503264   34 y
Grey Crowned Crane
Dieter is a qualified Bird Ringer and trainer, registered bird guide, and Weaver expert. Dieter is able to act as a bird guide for day trips in Cape Town, and is able to customise birds tours in South Africa and beyond.