Karoo Keepsakes: Dance of the Blue Cranes

blue cranes, karoo, south africa

The Blue Crane Dance – SA’s national bird is also a Karoo Treasure.

By Julienne du Toit

Pic by Chris Marais

If you were looking for a charming, beautiful and exemplary creature to be your country’s national bird, you would struggle to find better than a blue crane.

Consider this. Blue cranes mate for life and are completely faithful. Every year they renew their vows by spreading their wings, dancing in circles around each other, bowing, leaping in the air and offering gifts. They fully share the burden of chick-rearing and are very caring parents, going to great pains to show their babies what shoots to eat and how to catch locusts and other insects. They’re fiercely protective too, and will literally draw blood to keep their offspring safe.

Apart from a tiny population in Namibia and Botswana, they are entirely South African, favouring the Eastern Karoo and the Overberg.

In both regions, they seem to seek out the company of sheep. The experts don’t really know why. Is it the food? Cranes do sometimes feed from sheep troughs and feast on the insects disturbed by passing sheep. Blue cranes also like to nest near farm dams, possibly because their chicks need water within 24 hours of hatching.

All this makes perfect sense, but the sheep–crane affinity seems to go beyond food and convenience. Maybe it stems from the fact that one of the first things a blue crane chick will smell is sheep dung, because the parents often use it as nesting material.

More than that, though, they just seem completely comfortable in each other’s company.

This is an extract from Karoo Keepsakes II by Chris Marais & Julienne du Toit.

Print Version HERE

E-Book Version HERE

 

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