Historically, Wattled Cranes were widespread in South Africa from northern Limpopo, through Mpumalanga and Swaziland to western KZN and the Eastern Cape, extending as far south the Western Cape (Somerset West/Caledon). Today it occurs in a much more restricted range within the eastern higher rainfall regions of the country, with concentrations in the Mpumalanga highlands and the midlands to southern parts of KwaZulu-Natal. Small numbers of breeding pairs are also present within the Wakkerstroom region, the Eastern Cape as well as the north-eastern Free State. Wattled Cranes no longer occur within the Western Cape and Swaziland.
The largest population of Wattled Cranes occurs in south-central Africa (Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zaire, Tanzania and Zimbabwe). A small population occurs in Ethiopia.