Friday, 27 December 2013

Blue Crane: South Africa's bird of paradise

The stately Blue Crane is South Africa's national bird, and a striking one at that. The latin name - Anthropoides paradiseus - reveals it is our bird of paradise in name as well as looks. The Fynbos is a seat of a major population of these birds – around 6000 of 21 000. However, the species is classified as Vulnerable, with retractions in the grassy northeast of its range, but populations are holding steady and even increasing in other parts. It is still considered endemic to southern Africa, with the main population in South Africa and a small population in northern Namibia.

It is a real head turner in this part of the world, with some flocks easily passing a hundred birds. It is more usual to catch sight of a pair, pacing across open fields occasionally with a short tailed youngster in tow. The bubbling call carries for kilometers, and they often call in flight. But it is their courtship displays, so typical of cranes, that really catch the attention. They leap and bound into the air with open wings, bubbling away all the time.

After a transect today near on the western edge of the Baviaanskloof, where Fynbos transitions to Karoo, I decided to spend some time with a pretty pair, and was well rewarded for my patience. 

While there is no way to tell them apart in the field, to me it is the male doing this extra ordinary jump to show off to his female companion. Both sexes jump and call.

The following demonstrates the stately symmetry that makes these birds so special:


  1. Is it too soon for this pair to have a colt?

    1. Hi Marty - I didn't know baby cranes are sometimes called colts! You've taught me something. To answer the question - Blue Cranes breed anytime over the summer - so colts could well be spotted on the next visit to that reserve.

  2. Gorgeous photos Alan and a pleasing and appreciative essay!

  3. Fantastic photos! And what a pleasure to see.


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