14 Aug 2014
A new West African black-crowned crane mum keeps a beady eye on her young offspring as it takes its first few steps at Chester Zoo. The little crane is one of two to have hatched at the zoo – the first in a UK zoo this year

The West African black-crowned crane chicks are the first of their kind to hatch in a UK zoo this year.

Curator of birds, Andrew Owen, said:

This is a very significant breeding – the first in the UK this year. 

Currently the chicks are small, yellow and fluffy and it’s hard to believe that they’ll grow up to look as striking and unusual as mum and dad. But soon enough they’ll develop golden feathers on top of their heads that almost resemble a Roman helmet. Already the young are very confident and capable of foraging with their parents.

Cranes are also known for their elaborate dances and our young chicks are already capable of some nifty moves!

West African black-crowed cranes are listed as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with just 15,000 estimated to remain in the wild. The birds’ range spans from Senegal to Chad but its habitat is under threat due to drainage, overgrazing and pesticide pollution. The capture and trade of the species is also having a dramatic effect on wild numbers.

Mr Owen added:

As well as suffering from habitat loss and poisoning by farmers, black-crowned cranes are also caught and used as ‘guard dogs’. They are also disappearing as they hit newly installed overhead power lines. This all means that sadly, these birds are now very rare in the wild. 

We’ve supported initiatives to assist in the conservation of black crowned cranes in coastal areas of West Africa.

West African black-crowned crane facts 

  • The chicks hatched at Chester Zoo in July 2014
  • Dad was born on in 2002 and is nearly 12 years old. He was the first parent-reared crane to hatch at the zoo
  • Mum was born 1998 and is nearly 16 years old
  • West African crowned cranes are monogamous and remain and couple for life. Both the male and female build their nest together and take turns in incubating eggs and caring for the young