The body of the Black Crowned Crane is mostly black, with distinctive white upper and under wing coverts. The head is topped with a crown of stiff golden feathers. Cheek patches are red and white. The subspecies are most easily distinguished by the differences in the coloration of their cheek patches. In the West African subspecies, the lower half of the cheek patch is red; in the Sudan subspecies, the red extends into the upper half of the cheek patch.