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Animal in Focus: Blue Crane

Hello! I’m Allie, a bird keeper at Zoo Atlanta, and today I’m going to delve a little deeper into one of the species of birds we have the privilege of caring for: the blue crane.

The blue crane, also known as the Stanley crane, is the national bird of South Africa. A majority of the population is found there as well as in Namibia, with a few smaller populations in nearby Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. This species lives in grasslands, eating primarily seeds and insects. While they aren’t migratory, movement from higher to lower elevations is often seen with the changing of the seasons.

These elegant birds with their pale, dusky blue plumage can strike a startling contrast to their surroundings in the wild when they occasionally flock to upwards of 50 individuals. Each bird has what appears to be a long train of darker feathers that flows down from its back to brush the ground at its feet. These feathers are, in actuality, not tail feathers, but rather wing feathers. When a pair dances is the easiest time to note where the feathers are attached. Paired birds will dance by raising their wings and running with one another, often hopping and stopping to call to one another.

Unfortunately for these beautiful birds, they’re in a rather precarious position. While the population is presently is listed as Vulnerable, there are many factors surrounding them that could cause great devastation. Competition with farmers for grazing land, as well as having some of their natural habitat forested for commercial use by humans, has caused increasing concern. However, the largest cause of death is collisions with power lines. Luckily, the African Crane Conservation Programme of the International Crane Foundation is working hard to help these animals. Their efforts include teaching local communities how to sustainably use habitat as well as working with the power company Eskom to reduce power line collisions.

Here at Zoo Atlanta, one of our newest additions is actually a blue crane chick! Our feisty pair of cranes hatched their very first chick on July 8 of this year. At just 52 days old, he’s already almost as tall as his parents but still sports the downy fluff of a baby. Some of his favorite pastimes are rooting through the grass with his mother or taking a bath in the large water tub available to the family.

If you’d like to see our blue cranes and their gangly chick, then head on down to Outback Station, where you can find them just on the other side of the train tracks. See you out there!
Allie Clark
Keeper I, Birds

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl