The Blue Crane, also known as Paradise Crane, Stanley Crane, and Grus paradisea, is a large bird categorized under the Gruidae family. This large, long-legged family of diurnal birds are widespread in Africa. The closest relatives of Blue Crane include the Black Crowned Crane, Siberian Crane, Sarus Crane, and Wattled Crane.
The Blue Crane was first described by German zoologist Anton August Heinrich Lichtenstein in 1793. Likewise, ancient Greeks believed that the flight of Blue Cranes gave inspiration to the birth of the Greek alphabet by the mythological god Hermes.
This bird species is considered to be the national bird of the country South Africa. Compared to other crane species, the Blue Crane has a smaller body, larger head, and thinner neck. This bird has wonderful long wing feathers called tertials that extend its behind, making it easily mistaken for tail feathers.
The Blue Crane’s current population size stands around 25,550 individuals in South Africa. The biggest threat to their population is habitat disruption caused by converting natural habitats to agricultural lands. As agricultural areas become more apparent in Africa, disturbance, persecution, agricultural expansion, and livestock grazing aggravates. Other threats also include illegal capture and predation.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature classified this bird species as Vulnerable.
Its ten levels of scientific classification are as follows:
Species: Grus Paradisea
The physical characteristics of a Blue Crane
This bird species is a huge, ground-dwelling bird that stands between 100 and 120 cm in length, weighs between 3.6 and 6.2 kg, and has a wingspan of 180 to 200 cm. An adult Blue Crane usually has a pale bluish-gray plumage. This color shade is lighter on the body and darker on the upper head, nape, and neck, which appears to be somewhat whitish. Its short bill is greyish with a pink tinge.
Its beautiful wingtip feathers extend to its back down to the ground. The Blue Crane’s primates are color slate gray or black; the coverts are blackish on the secondaries.
Both male and female Blue Cranes share similar plumage and other physical characteristics. However, the male is usually larger than the female. On the other hand, a juvenile has a pale grey plumage and does not possess long wingtip feathers just yet.
The distribution and habitat of Blue Cranes
Compared to other crane species, Blue cranes have the most restricted distribution. Blue Cranes are endemic to southern Africa, and more than 99% of their population resides in South Africa. These birds can also be found in the Etosha Pan in northern Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, and Zimbabwe.
These birds frequent habitats at high elevations to avoid disturbance. They breed in dry grasslands, wetland areas, arable lands, and pasturelands. During autumn and winter, when the weather is colder, they migrate to lower altitudes.
The behavior of a Blue Crane
They may be smaller than other cranes, but Blue Cranes are more terrestrial than most of them. Its shorter toes allow them to run fast than others.
During the breeding season, which usually occurs in October to December, Blue Cranes perform fascinating courtship displays. A male and female pair will cry coordinated raspy sounds that sound like “kraaaaaank” in unison. They dance together while throwing their heads backs and their bills upward. The male Blue Crane will raise its wings, while the female keeps its wings closed. They dance, bow, jump, toss grass and sticks, and run together to strengthen their bond.
They are monogamous that pair bonds that last a lifetime. Nesting time occurs between September and February. Pairs create their nests at high elevations to avoid disturbances. A female Blue Crane lays two eggs and incubates them for 30-33 days. After hatching, the chicks will depend on their parents for food. After 3-5 months, the chicks will fledge.
The diet of Blue Cranes
This bird species tends to eat more in grasslands than wetland areas. They feed on plant matters such as grasses, seeds from sedges, tubers, roots, cereal grains, and wheat. Like other cranes, they also feed on insects such as grasshoppers, locusts, worms, and other organisms such as fish, crabs, frogs, small rodents, and reptiles.
BOTSWANA BIRDS | SOUTH AFRICA BIRDS
NAMIBIA BIRDS | ZAMBIA BIRDS | ZIMBABWE BIRDS