Cranes on Farms 1
Introducing some important habitats for Brolgas and Sarus Cranes on production properties in eastern and northern Australia. Eleven of the world's fifteen crane species are threatened in at least part of their range. Where cranes are surviving or doing well, the keys are good land managment and good relationships with people. Next Cranes on Farms 2» looks specifically at cranes in rice cultivation landscapes.
Farm and pastoral wetlands
Many significant crane sites are wetlands created or modified by pastoralists for stock watering
(E Duignan, Upper Herbert N Qld)
This shallow 12 ha pastoral storage was built in 1972 by pushing an embankment to dam overland Wet season flow. Thousands of waterbirds, including significant Brolga numbers, feed, rest and roost here in the northern winter (the Dry, non-breeding season). This ideal crane ‘flocking’ habitat has shallow water, surrounded by grassy woodland with moderate grazing to keep grasses short. The Brolgas and some Sarus Cranes feed in neighbouring maize croplands and pasture most of the day. In drought, numbers at this Crane Count site drop to about 200.
Crops and stubbles
Dr John Grant's 20 year study surveying daytime flocks of Sarus Cranes on the Atherton Tableland to determine preferred feeding habitat, shows maize stubble and short pasture are preferred over harvested canefields (J Grant, unpublished data). A key focus for the ongoing annual north Queensland Crane Counts is the importance of changing agricultural industries in the area for this significant part of Australia's Sarus population. Cranes can have completely neutral relationships with cropping, as with this Brolga family walking through lucerne in the New South Wales Riverina.
↑ Sarus Cranes on the Atherton Tableland feed most often in maize stubble Sandy Carroll)
↓ Brolga family in lucerne Matt Herring
Cranes and Grazing
Brolgas on cattle property, Gulf of Carpentaria, Queensland (P Merritt)
Cattle coexist well with crane species in many countries. The only known significant breeding area for Sarus Cranes in Australia, in the Gilbert River complex, Gulf of Carpentaria, is mostly grazed pastoral land. For guidelines on maximising Brolga habitat on southern Australian grazing properties, including farm dams, visit Murray Wildlife.
Some crane species have changed wintering areas or migration times to exploit planted seeds and post-harvest crop waste. Cranes feeding on crop waste, and vertebrate and invertebrate prey assist farmers but farmers can face considerable losses when cranes feed on newly planted seed. Conflict may lead to persecution (deliberate harm) to cranes, see Ozcranes Crane Hazards 2». To read about landowner liaison projects aimed at resolving farmer-crane conflicts, check the multi-purpose sites in Resources 1. An important focus of Tim Nevard's PhD study on Brolga-Sarus interactions in northern Australia covers conflicts with farmers, and solutions. Research is continuing on repelling or deflecting cranes from crops:
- Full pdf (1.628 Mb) of B Blackwell, D Helon & R Dolbeer article on crop repellents for pest cranes (pen trial stage)
- The successful ICF research project with universities, government and industry to develop the seed coating Avipel, which creates an emetic effect when cranes feed on new planted seed
- Successful research on feeding stations to deflect cranes from crops, after spectacular buildup in wintering numbers in Israel
- BirdLife Northern Queensland has a project on cranes and crops
- Working with Zambian community to avoid poisoning of Endangered Grey-crowned Cranes
Cranes on Farms 2», cranes in rice cultivation