Blue crane (Anthropoides paradiseus)

loading
Blue crane courtship dance
loading
Loading more images and videos...

Blue crane fact file

Blue crane description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderGruiformes
FamilyGruidae
GenusAnthropoides (1)

The elegant blue crane (Anthropoides paradiseus) is the national bird of South Africa (6). As the common name suggests, it is pale blue in colour, although it can appear grey from a distance (2). It is a relatively small crane with a large head, thick neck and beautiful elongated wing feathers, known as tertials, that trail behind this bird and are often mistaken for tail feathers (6). Most cranes have red patches of skin on their heads that are used in display. The blue crane does not have these bare patches, but instead has head feathers that can be erected when excited or during aggressive encounters (6). This species produces loud honking calls typical of cranes (2).

Also known as
paradise crane, Stanley crane.
Synonyms
Grus paradisea.
French
Grue bleue, Grue de paradis.
Spanish
Grulla Azul, Grulla de Paraiso.
Size
Length: c. 100 cm (2)
Top

Blue crane biology

This crane feeds mainly on the seeds of grasses and sedges, waste grains, insects and a range of small vertebrates (8). Unlike other species of crane that probe the ground with their bills, the blue crane tends to take above-ground resources (6)

Courtship involves a ‘dance’ in which the male chases the female, interrupted with leaps, bows and bouts of calling (6). Nesting occurs during summer, usually from September to February, and the typical nesting site is secluded grassland at high elevations. The eggs are laid in the grass or on bare ground (8). Nesting occasionally occurs in wetlands, in which case a platform nest of reeds is constructed (8). Two eggs are usually produced per clutch, and these are incubated for 30 to 33 days. The young become fully fledged after three to five months (8)

Blue cranes undertake local migrations, moving to lower elevations in autumn and winter with their chicks. Flocking is known to occur throughout the year but is more common during the winter when large flocks of several hundred birds form (8)

Top

Blue crane range

The blue crane has the most restricted distribution of the 15 crane species (7). It is endemic to southern Africa, with almost all of the population occurring in South Africa (8). There are also small and declining breeding populations in northern Namibia (comprising of about 35 to 40 birds in 2010) and western Swaziland, although the population may now be extinct there (2) (9). This crane occurs in Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Botswana (8) (9). As recently as 1980, this species was considered to be healthy and not threatened (8). However, In South Africa, the population has declined by 50 percent since the 1970s (2). In 1993, estimates put the population at 21,000 birds, but 60 to 70 percent of these are non-breeding individuals (2).

Top

Blue crane habitat

This crane breeds in dry grasslands at high elevations where there is less disturbance (6) (7). They may roost and breed in wetlands if available (7) and some individuals prefer to nest in arable and pastureland (2). In autumn and winter they usually move to lower altitudes (7).

Top

Blue crane status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) by the IUCN Red List  (1). Listed under Appendix II of CITES (3) and Appendix II of the African-Eurasian Migratory Water Bird Agreement (AEWA) (4) (5).  

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable

Top

Blue crane threats

Historically, the main factor responsible for the drastic decline of this crane since the 1970s was deliberate and accidental poisoning (2). Cranes were, and still are on occasions, illegally poisoned where they are perceived as crop pests, or indirectly affected by poison aimed at other species causing crop damage (8). Today, however, the most significant threat to this species is collisions with power lines, as well as the removal of suitable habitat from the replacing of grassland with trees for commercial plantations, or wetlands drying out (2) (8) (9). As human populations continue to increase, agricultural expansion, disturbance, persecution and livestock grazing also intensify and these threats are likely to become worse with time (7) (8). Other threats include predation by dogs, and the illegal capture of chicks for food and for the pet trade (2).

Top

Blue crane conservation

As the population of the blue crane has plummeted, conservation action has increased (2). Measures taken to date include tighter legal protection for the species; research into the bird’s ecology, biology and conservation status; surveys of the population; better habitat management on private land and the development of education programmes (7). There are a number of blue cranes in captive breeding facilities, but as yet, a reintroduction scheme to parts of the historic range has not been attempted (8).  Providing that the species is well protected and that suitable habitat is restored, the wild population should be able to recover to an extent. The signs are already encouraging, with the population having stabilised to a degree over the last five to ten years, with slight increases in certain areas, such in the Western Cape (8) (9).

To learn more about a Whitley Award-winning conservation project for this species, click here.
View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Top

Find out more

For further information on this species see:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

Top

Authentication

Authenticated (26/07/10) by Kerryn Morrison, Manager, International Crane Foundation/Endangered Wildlife Trust Partnership for African cranes.
http://www.ewt.org.za/ 
http://www.savingcranes.org/

Top

Glossary

Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Top

References

  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2012)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. BirdLife International (March, 2004)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/species/index.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=2792&m=0
  3. CITES (March, 2004)
    http://www.cites.org/
  4. African-Eurasian Migratory Water Bird Agreement (March, 2004)
    http://www.unep-aewa.org/birds/index.cfm?species=9524
  5. UNEP-WCMC Species Database (March, 2004)
    http://www.unep-wcmc.org/
  6. International Crane Foundation (March, 2004)
    http://www.savingcranes.org/blue-crane.html
  7. Ellis, D.H., Gee, G.F. and Mirande, C.M. (1996) Cranes: their biology, husbandry and conservation. U.S. Department of the Interior, National Biological Service, Washington, DC and International Crane Foundation, Baraboo, Wisconsin. Available at:
    http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/resshow/gee/cranbook/cranebook.htm
  8. Meine, C.D. and Archibald, G.W. (1996) The Cranes - Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, and Cambridge, U.K. Available at:
    http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/birds/cranes/cranes.htm
  9. Morrison, K. (2010) Pers. comm.
X
Close

Image credit

Blue crane courtship dance  
Blue crane courtship dance

© Roland Bischoff

Roland Bischoff
100044.1717@compuserve.com
http://www.naturbilder.de/RolandBischoff/

X
Close

Link to this photo

ARKive species - Blue crane (Anthropoides paradiseus) Embed this ARKive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to ARKive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about

X
Close

MyARKive

MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

This species is affected by global climate change. To learn about climate change and the species that are affected, visit our climate change pages.

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!

Blog RSS