With a crown of stiff gold-coloured feathers on its head, a bright red gular sac and body made of gray, brown, gold and white patches, the grey crowned crane stands out for its striking features. Commonly called the crested crane (Balearica regulorum), it is a bird of national significance to Uganda, occupying a prime position on the country's national flag and coat of arms. Yet despite its serenity, beauty and popularity, the crested crane is facing the threat of extinction. "Records show that the population of the cranes has crushed in the past four decades -- by over 80 per cent," said Achilles Byaruhanga, the executive director of Nature Uganda. Once widespread, only about 10,000 to 20,000 gray crowned cranes are left in Uganda, compared with an estimated 100,000 four decades ago, according to statistics from Nature Uganda and the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife. These cranes are omnivores, eating plants, seeds, grain, insects, frogs, worms, snakes, small fish and the eggs of aquatic animals. Stamping their feet as they walk, they flush out insects which are quickly caught and eaten. The birds also associate with grazing herbivores, benefiting from the ability to grab prey items disturbed by antelopes and gazelles. They spend their entire day looking for food. At night, the crowned crane spends its time in the trees sleeping and resting.
Sources: All Africa, 10 October 2016
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