Crane: Blue or Stanley crane
This a “vulnerable” species which has declined fast since the 1970’s! It only really occurs in South Africa where the higher altitude grasslands are being converted to pine & eucalyptus forest for timber. Currently about 25,000 birds exist in the wild
Cranes are generally omnivorous eating mainly plant material but as this is one of the smaller species (4ft/1.2m) they tend to eat smaller vertebrates, sedge & grass seeds, grains and insects.
Unlike virtually all other cranes blue cranes prefer to live in dry upper grasslands (2,500m plus)! They do migrate but only altitudinally over wintering at lower levels of between 1,200m to 2000m.
Blue cranes do not necessarily mate for life as each winter they migrate to lower altitudes where they flock (flocks of 50 -1000) and mates are either re-established or newly forged at the start of summer before flying to the upper grasslands again.
Blue cranes choose to nest and breed in high altitude short grasslands where a clutch of 2 eggs are laid usually on bare ground. The cock bird incubates normally at night and then guards the nest during the day while the hen sits.
This is the national bird of South Africa! It is also endemic to South Africa (supporting 99% of the population) except for about 60 birds living in Etosha pan in Namibia!
Their blue feathers were only allowed to be worn by Zulu royalty!
At The Zoo
Our pair have successfully bred and every year a clutch of 2 eggs are laid in June. The female was born in 1984 making her 31 years old today in 2015!