Birds – Crowned Cranes

Differing considerably from those previously mentioned are the Crowned Cranes (Balearica) of Africa, being so named from the presence of a narrow, fan-shaped crest or ” crown ” of twisted wire-like bristles, each three and one half inches long, radiating from the back of the head. Structurally they are distinguished by the absence of convolutions in the trachea, together with the possession of compact bodies, long necks, and rather short conical bills, while the general color of the plumage is black or leaden gray, the wings being white, with black primaries and secondaries, and dark brownish red tertiaries. The three known species are distinguished mainly on differences in the color and configuration of the bare spaces on the head. They occur in pairs or small parties, nesting in marshes and laying two usually bluish white unspotted eggs. Their habits are otherwise similar to those of other Cranes. The Courlans (Subfamily Aramince). — These are large Rail-like birds that were formerly placed directly with the Rails, which they closely resemble in external appearance, but when their anatomy came to be more carefully studied it was found that the whole skeleton, as well as the arrangement of the feather tracts, was distinctly Crane-like, the texture of the plumage and the form of the wings being the only essentially Rail-like features. A single genus (Aramus) of two closely related species are the only representatives, these being from twenty-four to about twenty-eight inches in length, with a slender, compressed bill nearly five inches long, both mandibles of which are decurved and turned slightly to one side at the tip, the latter as a result, it is said, of forcing the bill into the spiral opening of a certain land shell on which they largely feed. The legs are long and naked from the middle of the tibia, while the wings are broad and rounded, with the first quill scarcely longer than the tenth. The prevailing color of the plumage is dark brown, varying from a chocolate to an olive shade, with the head and neck and sometimes the back, wing-coverts, and lower parts striped or spotted longitudinally with white.