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Newsletter / Blog


2012-08-06
Birds in Trouble Globally.


The number of globally at-risk bird species has risen from 1,253 last year to 1,331 this year according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). A major cause for concern.

The southern Africa region supports a significant proportion of the world’s species dependent upon freshwater wetland habitats. Given that the region represents approximately 4% of total global land mass, it is apparent that many of our birds are  trouble. Our Cranes –

The Blue Crane

The Blue Crane - Anthropoides paradiseus - is our national bird, yet it is threatened. Of the 15 species of crane, the Blue Crane has the most restricted distribution of all.

Description

Body plumage is silvery bluish grey becoming darker on the upper neck and the lower half of the head and nape. Blue Cranes have a long neck supporting a rather bulbous head, short pink bill and black legs. The primary feathers are black or slate grey. The tertial feathers of the wing are long, dark and dangle nearly to the ground, giving this crane an elegant appearance. Males and females are virtually indistinguishable. Juveniles are slightly lighter blue gray than adults, and lack the long wing tertials.

Call

It is usually quiet, but has a distinctive rattling croak, ‘kraaaarrrk’.

Food

The blue crane is primarily vegetarian and eats small bulbs, seeds and roots. They do, however, eat a variety of insects (locusts, termites, caterpillars, grasshoppers, beetles, etc.), worms, crabs, fish, frogs, reptiles, and small mammals.

Breeding

A pair of blue cranes is said to mate for life and display a wonderful courtship dance which comprises of the two individuals jumping up and down with their wings extended. They usually lay two eggs with an incubation period of 30 to 33 days and both male and female incubate the eggs. Both chicks are frequently reared with each attempt and are fed on an initial diet of insect larvae and worms. The chicks are able to fly at about three to five months.

Birdwatching

Ask Aves Birding Tours/Safaris/Adventures to create a tour for you or book on one of the following Aves scheduled tours: -

Aves Eastern Cape Birding Tour / Safari /Adventure.

Aves Highlands / Tembe Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves KZN Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves North East Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves North West Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves Western Cape Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves West Coast Birding Tour / Safari /Adventure.

The Wattled Crane

The Wattled Crane - Bugeranus carunculatus - is by far the most endangered crane species in South Africa with only 240 left. They are the most wetland-dependent of Africa’s crane species and are exceptionally susceptible to disturbance while nesting in wetlands, and will easily desert a nest if disturbed.

Description

It is the largest crane in Africa with the back and wings ashy gray. The feathered portion of the head is dark slaty gray above the eyes and on the crown, but is otherwise white, including the wattles, which are almost fully feathered and hang down from under the upper throat. The breast, primaries, secondaries, and tail coverts are black. The secondaries are long and nearly reach the ground. The upper breast and neck are white all the way to the face. The skin in front of the eye extending to the base of the beak and tip of the wattles is red and bare of feathers and covered by small round wart-like bumps. Wattled Cranes have long bills and black legs and toes. Males and females are virtually indistinguishable although males tend to be slightly larger. Juveniles have tawny body plumage, lack the bare skin on the face, and have less prominent wattles.

Call

Wattled cranes are usually quiet birds. Their calls are high-pitched and include a far-carrying kwaamk bugle-call.

Food

The wattled crane mainly eats aquatic vegetation, but also eats tubers, rhizomes, seeds, small reptiles, frogs and insects. It often submerges its entire head under water when feeding.

Breeding

Wattled cranes breed only in wetlands. Breeding pairs maintain a territory, so that nests are always at least 500m apart. The nest is a large mound of grasses and sedges placed on a tuft, surrounded by open water. One or two eggs are laid, but only one ever hatches, the other being abandoned. Incubation period is 33-36 days. Fledging period is 135 days. Chicks reach adult height and can fly by four months, but are not sexually mature for 4 to 8 years. 

Birdwatching

Ask Aves Birding Tours/Safaris/Adventures to create a tour for you or book on one of the following Aves scheduled tours: -

Aves Highlands / Tembe Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves KZN Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

The Grey-Crowned Crane

The Grey-Crowned Crane - Balearica regulorum - has the most impressive plumage. There are only between 3000 to 4000 left in South Africa. It is a near-endemic to Southern Africa.

Description

The body of the Grey Crowned Crane is mainly grey. The wings are also predominantly white, but contain feathers with a range of colours. The head has a crown of stiff golden feathers. The sides of the face are white, and there is a bright red inflatable throat pouch. The bill is relatively short and grey and the legs are black. The sexes are similar, although males tend to be slightly larger. Young birds are greyer than adults, with a feathered buff face.

Call

It has a booming call which involves inflation of the red throat pouch. It also makes a honking sound quite different from the trumpeting of other crane species.

Food

It feeds on insects and other invertebrates, reptiles, small mammals, as well as grass seeds.

Breeding

The Grey Crowned Crane has a breeding display involving dancing, bowing, and jumping. The nest is a platform in tall wetland vegetation. It lays a clutch of 2 to 5 eggs. Incubation is performed by both sexes and lasts 28 to 31 days. Chicks fledge at between 56 to 100 days.

Birdwatching

Ask Aves Birding Tours/Safaris/Adventures to create a tour for you or book on one of the following Aves scheduled tours: -

Aves Eastern Cape Birding Tour / Safari /Adventure.

Aves Highlands / Tembe Birding Tour / Safari / Adventure.

Aves KZN Birding Tour/Safari/Adventure.

 


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