The national bird of South Africa, the blue crane is an elegant wading bird easily recognizable by its distinctive coloration and long wing plumes. Unfortunately, its grace is rapidly disappearing and it is a threatened species that needs conservation help to recover.
Blue Crane, Stanley Crane, Paradise Crane, Indwe
- Bill: Pink, relatively small, straight
- Size: 50 inches long with 60-inch wingspan, large head
- Colors: Blue-gray, black, pink, white
- Markings: Genders are the same with overall blue-gray plumage and a pale, whitish crown on the head with a darker hindneck. The bill is pale pink and relatively small for a crane. Long tertial wing feathers fade to black near the tips and trail to the ground, often mistaken for a plumed tail. Legs and feet are gray or black.
Seeds, insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles
Habitat and Migration:
These cranes prefer open, arid grasslands and can frequently be found in agricultural and pasture areas. Their range is confined to southeastern South Africa and western Swaziland with a second isolated population in northern Namibia. In winter they migrate locally, seeking lower elevations but not wandering far from their regular range.
The blue crane has a loud, rapid honking rattle call that undulates in pitch. These can be noisy birds in flocks or when in flight.
Like most birds, the blue crane is relatively solitary during the breeding season but forms medium to large flocks in the winter, when they will roost communally. When threatened, the bird will fluff out its nape and cheek feathers in an aggressive display.
These birds perform unison calling and dancing courtship displays. A mated pair will produce a single brood of 2 eggs and both parents will incubate the eggs for 30-33 days. After hatching, the young are cared for by both parents for 85-145 days until their first flight, during which time the male parent takes on a more aggressive protector role while the female parent nurtures the young birds.
Attracting Blue Cranes:
Like all wading birds these are not typical backyard species, though they can be found near human habitation in agricultural areas, particularly after the harvest when spilled grain is abundant. The blue crane population is declining due to increased mining, habitat loss and pesticide use, and limiting these activities as well as preserving grassland is essential to protect the species. Blue cranes are also at risk from power line collisions.
- Demoiselle Crane (Anthropoides virgo)
- Common Crane (Grus grus)
- Wattled Crane (Bugeranus carunculatus)
Photo – Blue Crane © Tony Hisgett