African Blue Crane Fun Facts

Adult Blue CraneBlue cranes live in grasslands and plains of Southern Africa. While they prefer habitats with both water and dry land, they feed almost exclusively in the dry areas. They eat a variety of grasses and sedges, as well as insects and small lizard, frogs, and snails.

Compared to other cranes, blue cranes are small but with a large head. They have pale gray plumage and long black-tipped wing feathers which can be mistaken for tail feathers. When excited, the feathers on their heads may be upright. Chicks have dark gray and brown feathers.


Two Adult Blue CranesThroughout the year, blue cranes migrate altitudinally. In the summer, they live at altitudes about 6,500 feet above sea level. In the winter, they move down to lowlands. The breeding season lasts for many months but usually happens between the late fall and late winter, when the cranes will be in their lower altitude winter habitat.

Both the male and female engage in courting ritual behavior. This involves the pair running in circles, to begin with. Then they toss objects into the air and jump. If the dance is successful and they select each other, they will mate within a few weeks. Both the mother and father incubate the clutch of eggs, which is usually two eggs. They become very aggressive when defending their nest, attacking animals which don’t normally pose a threat, such as tortoises, cattle, and even humans.


Baby African Blue CraneThe incubation period lasts on average 30 days. After hatching, the chicks are at first helpless. When they are about two days old, they begin walking and swimming follows shortly after. While the father stays around after the chicks hatch, it is mostly the mother who takes the responsibility of feeding them. The chicks fledge (develop their flight feathers) sometime after three months of age. The chicks stay with their parents until the next breeding season.

While blue cranes aren’t an endangered species, they are vulnerable. Their population has been in decline since the 1980s. The biggest threat posed to them is habitat destruction or agricultural encroachment. Poisoning from pesticides also is dangerous to them. Luckily, blue cranes are a protected species in South Africa.


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