Blue Crane Ecology

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Blue Cranes favour short grasslands, and in common with the Demoiselle Crane (A. virgo), are not dependent on wetland habitats for breeding. Within the grasslands, the species is more abundant and evenly distributed in the eastern sour grasslands (where natural grazing of livestock is the predominant land use). In the arid Karoo, the species is found in areas where perennial grasslands are dominant over the more typical scrub Karoo vegetation of the region. In the Western Cape, the species is restricted almost exclusively to intensively cultivated habitats (mainly cereal crops and small livestock farming).


Blue Cranes are summer breeders, nesting from late September through to February. Preferred nesting sites are secluded open grasslands with full view around the nest for predator evasion. A clutch of 2 eggs is laid, generally in a shallow grassy depression or simply on the bare ground. Occasionally, Blue Cranes may nest in shallow seasonal wetlands, particularly where livestock numbers are high and risk of nest trampling is increased. In agricultural areas, they nest in pastures, in fallow fields and in crop fields as stubble becomes available after harvest. The Blue Crane is termed a 'partial migrant', gathering in large flocks during the winter months having moved out of their breeding territories. Our understanding of their movement patterns is limited but an assessment is currently in progress, using satellite telemetry and colour ringing. Movements appear to be more localized than previously thought with flocks moving in large groups within their sub-populations (e.g. the sub-population in the Karoo biome) and not mixing throughout the country.