I saw my first wild Crowned Crane feeding in wetlands along the Kapamba River in Zambia this past December. The East African Crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum) is a most elegant and ancient bird species. These beautiful creatures are considered to be “living fossils”, having flourished in the Eocene period some 54 to 38 million years ago and surviving the ice age.
Crowned Cranes range from eastern sub-Saharan Africa and south to South Africa. Usually found in pairs, cranes have a lifespan of 22 years with mated pairs staying together 9 to 10 months to raise their chicks. Crowned Cranes are the only cranes to roost in trees, having a large rear toe and claw to help cling to branches. Loss of wetland habitat and lax enforcement of protective laws have pushed the species to "vulnerable" status.