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The Crested Crane is Uganda’s official bird. It has been Uganda’s national symbol since the colonial times. Also known as the grey crowned crane, this beautiful bird is graceful, elegant, and moves with a very dignified gait. It is slightly over 3ft. tall with long legs and a slender neck, almost as long as its legs. Its head is crowned with stiff gold feathers. Although most of its wings and body plumage is white, the feathers are quite colorful, containing the three colors of the Ugandan flag- black, yellow, and red.
The Crested Crane first made it to national status in the early 90s when the then colonial Governor of Uganda, Sir Frederick Jackson was captured by its beauty and chose it to adorn the Union Jack. [see; Imperial Flags-Uganda Governor’s flag 1914-1962]. When the Uganda Flag was adopted in 1962, replacing the Union Jack, the Crested Crane was chosen as the official symbol of the independent Uganda. This majestic bird now adorns the centre of the flag, standing on one leg, facing the flagpole, surrounded by the national colors- black, yellow and red. The one-leg stance symbolizes the idea of Uganda moving forward. It also adorns one side of the Uganda Coat of Arms [National Insignia]. It was chosen as Uganda’s symbol due to its dignity, elegance and its peaceful and friendly nature, which is without a doubt a representative of the Ugandan people. Of course there is the fact that its wing feathers are black, yellow and red. The Crested Crane name also extends to other fields such as sports. For example, the Uganda National football team is called the Uganda Cranes where as the National Women’s team is called the She-Cranes.
The Crested Crane can be found in almost all regions of Uganda. Although it is considered a crime to harm one of these birds in Uganda, their numbers are drastically reducing because most of their habitats have been encroached on by human settlement and other activities such as poaching. Witchdoctors also contribute to this tragedy because they use the birds’ body parts and/or eggs to make love potions believed to make relationships stronger since crested cranes are monogamous and mate for life. Despite this, the Crested Crane remains the most cherished bird in the country.