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An elegant and charismatic bird, the Brolga’s courtship ritual is a graceful exhibition of dance movements and trumpet-like calls between the male and female. This elaborate display includes prancing, pirouettes, dipping, bobbing, jumping, head shaking and grass tossing, while open wings are displayed to one another. This fascinating mating dance has long been incorporated into the song and dance ceremonies of indigenous Australians.
The Brolga is native to Australia and is the official bird emblem of Queensland. It is a long-legged, long-billed crane with a pale grey plumage, a vibrant red band of colour on its head and a small, black dewlap under its beak.
Brolgas can reach a maximum height of approximately 1.3 metres, with the average height around 1.1 metres; females are generally smaller than the males.
The Brolga likes to inhabit areas where water is found, predominantly coastal mudflats, well irrigated crops, open wetlands and shallow, freshwater marshes. They are omnivorous and eat a diverse range of plant and animal food items such as roots and tubers, seeds, insects, molluscs, and sometimes even small fish, mice and frogs. They are widely distributed in tropical regions such as northern Australia, through Queensland, interior New South Wales, and south western parts of Victoria.
Breeding season appears to vary according to the location of the Brolga. In northern parts of Australia breeding occurs between February and May; in the south the breeding season is from September to December. Brolgas partner for life and during breeding season both partners will help to establish and defend an isolated territory for nesting, usually an island-like mound of vegetation within a shallow wetland area. Brolgas have been known to use the same nesting areas for up to 20 years. Both partners help to incubate the eggs and look after the young chicks once they are born. A single clutch is usually made up of two brown and purple blotched eggs, and can take up to 32 days to hatch.
Although the Brolga is widespread, there has been a slow population decline over the past decade due to a series of common threats faced by many native, Australian animals – degradation and loss of habitat; drought; water pollutants and fox predation.
- The Brolga is the only known crane species that has a specialised gland in the corner of its eyes used to help pass excess salt from the body
- Australia has two crane species – the Brolga (Grus rubicunda) and the lesser known, Sarus Crane (Grus antigone). Though both look very similar to one another, Brolgas have a vibrant red colour confined only to their head; the Sarus Cranes have more extensive red colouring across the head and down their neck area
- The Brolga is also known as the Australian crane, or, the Native companion
- Werribee Open Range Zoo
- Healesville Sanctuary
- Melbourne Zoo