Brolga

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Image:Brolga.jpg

Common Name: Brolga
Scientific Name: Grus rubicunda

Size: 27 ½ - 51 inches (70-130 cm)

Habitat: Australia; Found in tropical and eastern Australia and New Guinea. Found in shallow fresh and saltwater wetlands.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 26,000 - 100,000. Brolga are not listed as threatened on the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. However, their conservation status varies from state to state within Australia. The Brolga is listed as threatened on the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (1988). Under this Act, an Action Statement for the recovery and future management of this species has been prepared. On the 2007 advisory list of threatened vertebrate fauna in Victoria, the Brolga is listed as vulnerable

Diet: Wetland and upland plants, seeds, mollusks, and crustaceans. Northern Australian populations of Brolga are fond of the tubers of the bulkuru sedge which they dig holes to extract but this is not available south of Brisbane

Nesting: Brolgas are well known for their intricate mating dances. The dance begins with a bird picking up some grass and tossing it into the air, catching it in its bill, and then progresses to jumping a meter into the air with outstretched wings, then stretching, bowing, walking, calling, and bobbing its head. Sometimes just one Brolga dances for its mate; often they dance in pairs; and sometimes a whole group of about a dozen dance together, lining up roughly opposite each other before starting.

The brolga breeds throughout its range in Australia and New Guinea. The time of breeding is largely determined by rainfall rather than the time of year; thus the season is February to May after the rainy season in the monsoonal areas, and September to December in southern Australia. The flocks split up and pairs establish nesting territories in wetlands. In good habitat, nests can be quite close together, and are often found in the same area as those of the closely related but slightly larger Sarus Crane. The nest is a raised mound, built by both sexes, of sticks, uprooted grass, and other plant material sited on a small island, standing in shallow water, or occasionally floating. If no grasses are available, mud or roots unearthed from marsh beds are employed. Sometimes they make barely any nest at all, take over a disused swan nest, or simply lay on bare ground.

There is one brood produced a year, with clutch size usually two; the dull white eggs and are sparsely spotted or blotched with reddish brown. The markings are denser at the larger end of the egg. Occasionally one or three are laid about two days apart. Both birds incubate and guard the young. Hatching is not synchronized, and takes about 30 days. The chicks hatch covered in grey down and weighing about 100 g. They can leave the nest within a day or two, have body feathers within 4 or 5 weeks, and are fully feathered after three months, and able to fly about two weeks after that. When threatened, chicks hide and stay quiet while the parents perform a broken-wing display. The parents continue to guard the young for up to 11 months, or almost two years if they do not re-nest.

Cool Facts: The bird has also been given the name "Australian Crane", a term coined in 1865 by well-known ornithological artist John Gould in his Birds of Australia. It can easily be confused with the Sarus Crane, however the latter's red head coloring extends partly down the neck while the Brolga's is confined to the head. Additionally, in Australia the range of the Sarus is limited to a few scattered localities in northern Australia, compared to the more widespread distribution of the Brolga.

Brolgas are gregarious creatures; the basic social unit is a pair or small family group of about 3 or 4 birds, usually parents together with juvenile offspring, though some such groups are nonfamilial. In the non-breeding season, they gather into large flocks, which appear to be many self-contained individual groups rather than a single social unit. Within the flock, families tend to remain separate and to coordinate their activities with one another rather than with the flock as a whole.

It is the official bird emblem of the state of Queensland. In the US, there is a drink called the “Brolga” which consists of gin, Sprite (or 7 Up), and a few drops of Angostura bitters.


Found in Songbird ReMix Australia Volume III

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