The national bird of South Africa, the Blue Crane, is endemic to southern Africa with most of its range falling in South Africa. It is the world’s most range-restricted crane. Strong populations are found in the Overberg region in the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape and western KwaZulu-Natal, and in southern parts of Mpumalanga.
How to recognise a Blue Crane
Blue Cranes stand about 110–120 cm in in height, and weigh about 4.5–5.1 kg. Their wingspan is 180–210 cm. The plumage colour is pale grey, lightest on head and darkest on the tertial plumes.
They can be distinguished from grey-coloured herons (e.g. the Grey Heron and Black-headed Heron) by their long tertial plumes, which almost trail on the ground, the differently shaped head and bill; and in flight by the outstretched neck. Juveniles lack tertial plumes, but otherwise resemble the adults. Chicks are covered in greyish down.
They fly at as much as 60–70 km/hr, sometimes in a V-formation, and walk on the ground while foraging. When threatened or disturbed, they may adopt a stiff, strutting walk while shaking their head and flicking the bill from side-to-side.
St Francis Bay photographer Clive Wright captured this image of a Blue Crane mating ritual