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Brolga

A Brolga standing in a wetland

Scientific Name: Grus rubicunda

Size: Up to 1.3m

What does it look like?

The Brolga is a large grey crane, with a featherless red head and grey crown. The legs are grey and there is a black dewlap under the chin. The Brolga’s call is a loud trumpeting “garooo” or “kaweee-kreee-kurr-kurr-kurr-kurr-kurr-kurr”, which are given in flight, at rest, or during courtship. Another species of crane is also found in Australia. The Sarus Crane, G. antigone, can be identified by its dull pink legs and the red of the head extending down the neck. Both species are similar in height, with females shorter than males. Outside of the breeding season, Brolga’s form small groups or flocks of up to a few hundred birds. One of the most spectacular sights is the entertaining and energetic dance performed by the Brolga. Displays may be given at any time of the year and by birds of any age.

Where is it found?

 It is spread across tropical northern Australia, southwards through northeast and east central areas, and central New South Wales to western Victoria. Within New South Wales, the Brolga’s numbers have been much reduced due to widespread draining of its habitats for human activities, such as agriculture, land reclaiming and water regulation, but birds are still common and widespread throughout Australia’s north.

What are its habitats & habits?

The Brolga inhabits large open wetlands, grassy plains, coastal mudflats and irrigated croplands, and, less frequently, in mangrove-studded creeks and estuaries. It is less common in arid and semi-arid regions, but will occur close to water.

Brolga’s are omnivorous (feeding on either vegetable or animal matter), but feeds primarily on tubers and some crops. Some insects, molluscs, amphibians and even mice are also taken.

In Australia’s south, Brolga’s breed in September to December. Northern birds breed later, February to May. Birds probably mate for life, and pair bonds are strengthened during elaborate courtship displays, which involve much dancing, leaping, wing-flapping and loud trumpeting. An isolated territory is established, and is vigorously defended by each member. The single clutch usually consists of 2 white eggs, blotched with brown and purple. The nest is a large mound of vegetation on a small island in a shallow waterway or swamp. Both adults incubate the eggs and care for the young birds, which hatch after about 32 days.

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Front cover of Australia's Birdwatching Megaspots book showing a picture of an Eastern Spinebill

This species features in my book Australia’s Birdwatching Megaspots

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