Blue Crane

The Blue Cranes is the national bird of South Africa

South Africa BirdlifeThe Blue Crane {Anthropoides paradisea}

The Blue Crane, the national bird of South Africa, has declined mostly due to loss of habitat (human population growth), direct and indirect poisoning and power-line collision. It's population appears to stable, but it is still vulnerable and listed as such by the IUCN.

One of the smaller crane species, the Blue Crane's plumage is silvery bluish gray becoming darker on the upper neck and the lower half of the head and nape.

The feathers of the crown and forehead are light grayish white, while the cheeks, ear coverts and nape are dark ashy gray, which they raise (or fluff) during threat displays, producing a distinctive cobra-like look. Blue Cranes have short bills and black legs. The primary feathers are black or slate gray. The tertial feathers of the wing are long, dark and dangle nearly to the ground, giving this crane an elegant appearance.

Quick Facts


Weight: 3.6 - 6.2 kg.
Height: 110 - 120 cm.
Wingspan: 180 - 210 cm.


The Blue Crane is a bird of dry grasslands and other upland habitats. Where shallow wetlands are available, Blue Cranes will roost and feed in them.


Blue Crane are endemic to southern Africa, with more than 99% of the population occurring within South Africa. A small breeding population of approximately 60 individuals exists in northern Namibia, in and around the Etosha Pan.


All cranes are omnivorous. Principal foods of the Blue Crane include the seeds of sedges and grasses, waste grains, insects, and small vertebrates.


All cranes engage in dancing, which includes various behaviors such as bowing, jumping, running, stick or grass tossing, and wing flapping. Dancing can occur at any age and is commonly associated with courtship, however, it is generally believed to be a normal part of motor development for cranes and can serve to thwart aggression, relieve tension, and strengthen the pair bond.


Mated pairs of cranes engage in unison calling, which is a complex and extended series of coordinated calls. The birds stand in a specific posture, usually with their heads thrown back and beaks skyward during the display. The male always lifts up his wings over his back during the unison call while the female keeps her wings folded at her sides. In Blue Cranes the male initiates the display and utters one call for each female call.


Preferred nesting sites of Blue Cranes include secluded grasslands in higher elevations where eggs are laid amid the grass or on the bare ground. In agricultural areas, they nest in pastures, in fallow fields, and in crop fields when stubble becomes available after harvest. Females usually lay two eggs and incubation (by both sexes) lasts 30-33 days. The male takes the primary role in defending the nest against possible danger. Chicks fledge (first flight) between 3-5 months of age.


Incubation lasts 30 - 33 days.

Life Expectancy

20 to 30 years (Confirmation required).


Cape clawless otter.


Birdlife International; IUCN; Biodiversity Explorer.


Blue Crane Conservation Status

  • Vulnerable

Did you know?

The Blue Crane is also known as the Stanley Crane and the Paradise Crane.

There are only about 25,000 Blue Cranes left in the world, around half of which can be found in the Cape Overberg (2014).

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