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AFCON 2019: Unpacking the Crane

By Clive Kyazze

Patrick Kaddu ran away from his marker before flying to brush Farouk Miya’s corner past Matampi as the Uganda Cranes took the lead against the Leopards of DR Congo.

It’s in a similar fashion that Emmanuel Okwi also doubled Cranes lead three minutes into the second half of the game.

The two goals in Uganda’s opening game of the 2019 Total Africa Cup of Nations can give a slight description of what kind of bird the Crested Crane is.

As Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) CEO, Lilly Ajarova believes, ‘the Cranes is the greatest football brand’ it’s not a surprise that they share a name with one of the county’s greatest treasures

In Uganda, you will find the grey-crowned crane called the Gruidae, which is also the national bird of the pearl of Africa, it occupies the right side of the Coat of Arms and the middle of Uganda flag.


In the Uganda Savannah vegetation, you will find the Crested Cranes peacefully going about its business standing one meter tall and weighs about 3.5 kilograms with a wingspan of two meters.

Its feathers are predominantly grey while the wings are predominantly white but fused with other colours and a distinctive black patch at the very top.

Another feature that makes the Cranes standout is its head that has a crown of stiff golden feathers, the bill is relatively short and grey. The legs are black, long enabling it to wade through the grasses while hunting for a meal.

The Crested Crane poses large yet slender feet, they are meant for balancing while moving and not necessarily defence or grasping.

It’s hard to differentiate the sexes but the males tend to be slightly larger. Young birds are greyer than adults, with a feathered buff face.

This species and the black-crowned crane are the only cranes that can roost in trees, because of a long hind toe that can grasp branches.

This trait is assumed to be an ancestral trait among the cranes, which has been lost in the other subfamily. Crowned cranes also lack a coiled trachea and have loose plumage compared to the other cranes.


The Crested Cranes feeds mainly on plants, seeds, grains, 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 Crested Crane spends its time in the trees sleeping and resting.


Grey-crowned cranes time their breeding season around the rains, although the effect varies geographically.

In East Africa and Uganda Particularly, the Crested Cranes breed year-round, but most frequently during the drier periods.

During the breeding season, pairs of cranes construct a large nest; a platform of grass and other plants in tall wetland vegetation.

The grey-crowned crane lays a clutch of 2-5 glossy, dirty-white eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for 28–31 days. Chicks can run as soon as they hatch, and fly in 56–100 days.

According to, in 2017 only about 10,000 to 20,000 of the Crested Cranes were left in Uganda. Though it used to be an estimated 100,000 four decades ago.

Habitat loss is due to human actions which indeed in huge ways contribute to their declining numbers.

Addition reporting adapted from Wikipedia.

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