There are two subspecies. The East African B. r. gibbericeps (Crested Crane) occurs from eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo through Uganda, of which it is the national bird, and Kenya to eastern South Africa. It has a larger area of bare red facial skin above the white patch than the smaller nominate species, B. r. regulorum (South African Crowned Crane), which breeds from Angola south to South Africa. This species and the closely related Black Crowned Crane are the only cranes that can roost in trees, because of a long hind toe that can grasp branches. This habit, amongst other things, is a reason why the relatively small Balearica cranes are believed to closely resemble the ancestral members of the Gruidae.
At Copenhagen ZooThe Grey Crowned Crane has a breeding display involving dancing, bowing, and jumping. It has a booming call which involves inflation of the red gular sac. It also makes a honking sound quite different from the trumpeting of other crane species. The nest is a platform of grass and other plants in tall wetland vegetation. The Grey Crowned Crane lays a clutch of 2-5 eggs. Incubation is performed by both sexes and lasts 28–31 days. Chicks fledge at 56–100 days.
The Grey Crowned Crane is about 1 m (3.3 ft) tall and weighs 3.5 kg (7.7 lbs). Its body plumage is mainly grey. The wings are also predominantly white, but contain feathers with a range of colours. The head has a crown of stiff golden feathers. The sides of the face are white, and there is a bright red inflatable throat pouch. The bill is relatively short and grey, and the legs are black. The sexes are similar, although males tend to be slightly larger. Young birds are greyer than adults, with a feathered buff face. Although the Grey Crowned Crane remains common over much of its range, it faces threats to its habitat due to drainage, overgrazing, and pesticide pollution. Like all cranes, it feeds on insects and other invertebrates, reptiles, small mammals, as well as grass seeds.
The Grey Crowned Crane is the national bird of Uganda and features in the country’s flag and coat of arms