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A photo of a Brolga (Antigone rubicunda)
Brolga

Brolga

Antigone rubicunda

The Brolga (Antigone rubicunda), once known as the native companion, is a majestic member of the crane family. This bird stands tall and upright, with a slender neck, a modest head, and elongated legs. Its plumage is predominantly grey, accented with black wing tips. A distinctive feature is the orange-red band adorning its head, a splash of color against the grey. The Brolga's dance, part of its courtship ritual, is a spectacle akin to that of its crane cousins.

Identification Tips

Adult Brolgas can be identified by their grey-green, skin-covered crown, and the coral red face, cheeks, and throat pouch, which are devoid of feathers. The beak is a greyish-green, and the eyes are a striking yellowish-orange. Juveniles are less colorful, lacking the red band and sporting fully feathered heads with darker irises. In flight, the black wingtips are a telltale sign, and the bird's large size is notable, with a wingspan stretching between 1.7 to 2.4 meters.

Habitat

Brolgas favor wetland habitats, where they can be found in both tropical and southeastern Australia, as well as in southern New Guinea. They thrive in marshlands, where they build their nests either on elevated land or floating amidst shallow waters.

Distribution

This species is widespread across northern and northeastern Australia, particularly in Queensland, and extends its range to southern New Guinea. While they are abundant in the north, southern populations are less numerous.

Behaviour

Brolgas are gregarious creatures, forming large flocks outside of the breeding season. They exhibit a complex social structure, with breeding pairs defending territories and nonbreeding birds forming large, loosely associated flocks. Their takeoff is somewhat awkward, but once airborne, they soar gracefully, often reaching impressive altitudes.

Song & Calls

The Brolga's vocalizations include a series of trumpeting and grating calls, which are lower in pitch compared to those of the similar-looking Sarus Crane.

Breeding

Monogamous by nature, Brolgas typically bond for life. Their breeding season is dictated by rainfall rather than a fixed time of year. The nest is a mound of vegetation, and the clutch usually consists of two eggs. Both parents share incubation duties, and the precocial chicks are ready to leave the nest within a couple of days after hatching.

Similar Species

The Sarus Crane is the species most commonly confused with the Brolga. However, the Sarus Crane has a more extensive red coloring on its neck and a higher-pitched call. It also has pink legs, as opposed to the blackish legs of the Brolga.

Diet and Feeding

Brolgas are omnivorous, foraging on plant matter, invertebrates, and small vertebrates. They are known to tear up the ground with their beaks in search of edible roots and bulbs, and their diet varies significantly across different regions and seasons.

Conservation status

The Brolga is currently listed as "Least Concern" by the IUCN Red List, with a stable population in the majority of its range. However, there is some concern over declining numbers, particularly in southern Australia, prompting local conservation efforts.

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A photo of a Sarus Crane (Antigone antigone)

Sarus Crane

Antigone antigone
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