The Brolga is an Australian bird of the crane family and one of the countrys largest flying birds. It has long legs and a silvery-gray body, and the undersides of its wingtips are dark brown or black, and part of its head and neck are a scarlet color. Males are slightly bigger than females.
The Brolga is common in the north and north-east parts of Australia, from Victoria to north-east Queensland. It also inhabits southern New Guinea, parts of northern Western Australia and New Zealand. It lives in wetlands, shallow open marshes, wet meadows, coastal mudflats and sometimes estuaries. It avoids areas that are arid and semi-arid, but it may live near water in such habitats.
Habits and lifestyle
Brolgas are gregarious birds, often seen in pairs and in family groups numbering 3 to 4 individuals. After breeding season, the birds gather in large flocks where families stay separated. Such groups may be partly nomadic or may remain in the same area. Brolgas are active during the day and rest at night. Some birds of this species also migrate to the north. Brolgas perform elaborate displays such as their mating dances, either in the breeding season or any time of the year. They are aggressive and will fight, leaping into the air to rake an intruder with their claws, or to stab at the opponent with their bill. If threatened at their nest with chicks present, parents perform a broken-wing display while their chicks hide. They make a far-carrying trumpeting garooo sound or a longer kaweee-kreee-kurr-kurr-kurr-kurr when flying, resting or during courtship displays.
flock, flight, pod
Diet and nutrition
The Brolga is omnivorous and mainly eats sedge tubers and crops, though it will also eat invertebrates such as insects, crustaceans, and mollusks, small vertebrates like frogs, and occasionally mice.
The Brolga is a monogamous species and mates for life. They engage in dramatic displays that involves leaps, head shaking and trumpeting loudly. These dances may serve to strengthen bonds between mates outside the mating season, which occurs mainly from September until December in the south, while in the north it is between February and May. Nests are located in a marsh or on small islands in shallow water. Both adults strongly defend their territory and their nest site. Females lay two eggs and incubation is shared by both parents, lasting about 28-30 days. The young are fed and looked after by both parents. The chicks can leave their nest very soon, between a few hours and two days old. The chicks fledge within a four to five-week period, and within three months they are fully feathered, and able to fly around two weeks after that. The adults protect their young for as long as 11 months or sometimes for nearly 2 years, depending on whether or not they have bred again in the interim.
September-December in the South; February-May in the North
The biggest threat to Brolgas is degradation and loss of their wetland habitats due to drainage of wetlands, excessive grazing and fencing. Further threats are collision with powerlines, and predation by the introduced red fox.
According to Wikipedia, the population in northern Australia is estimated at between 20,000 and 100,000 birds and in southern Australia, 1,000 birds. Brolgas are classified as least concern (LC) on the list of threatened species with stable population trend.
Fun facts for kids
- When brolga babies are threatened, they hide and keep quiet while the parent performs a broken-wing display to lure the predator away.
- An Aboriginal legend tells of the brolga once being a famous dancer with the name Buralga.
- The brolga has a powerful flight, due to its large wingspan, and it gives several flaps of its wings before gliding. They can fly at a high altitude when searching a cooler air.
- When eating sedge tubers, brolgas will dig holes to extract the tubers from mud, using their long bill.
- The brolga is one of two crane species in Australia, and is known for its stunning dance displays by both males and females during the breeding season. The dance starts with bowing and stretching, then the birds walk forwards and backwards while bobbing their heads and flapping their wings, and calling. Mates dance with each other or in groups of around 10 to 12 birds. A different display involves the birds picking up some grass, twigs, or other plant material, tossing it in the air and then grabbing it with its bill. They also jump up and then glide down for a landing.