South Africa’s Elegant Blue Crane
The Blue Crane, also referred to as the Paradise Crane or the Stanley Crane, is the national bird of South Africa. It is certainly worthy of its place on the national list because of its simple elegance and delicate features. The Blue Crane has been classified by conservationists as vulnerable, as its numbers have been declining. This bird is endemic to the southern areas of the African continent, and there is a tiny breeding group of approximately sixty birds in Namibia at present.
Standing at an approximate height of one hundred and twenty centimeters, the Blue Crane weighs in at an average of five kilograms, and has very distinctive features. Their heads, upper neck area and nape are slightly darker than the bluish silvery grey plumage that dominates the coloring of the bird, and its forehead and crown display a grayish white appearance. Ash grey covers the cheeks and the primary feathers are very dark in color. The legs and bill are black. The long feathering on the wings and tail of the bird give the Blue Crane an extremely elegant air about it, and it is easy to see why this bird was given national status. They are omnivores, therefore eating everything from seeds, grains and grass to insects. Due to their dietary habits, Blue Cranes prefer to reside in grasslands, agricultural lands and wetlands. It is said that there are approximately twenty thousand birds left in southern Africa.
The growth of the human population has led to the decline in Blue Crane numbers, as their habitat has been encroached upon by grasslands being converted to tree plantations for commercial use, crop dusting poisonings and accidental poisonings by farmers targeting other bird species. The government of South Africa has taken note of these numbers and due to the Blue Crane being a national bird, its protection is now of the highest importance. Educating landowners, doing intense research and managing habitats for the Blue Crane have become a priority for South Africa to ensure the survival of their heritage and national bird.