Brolga FAQ 3

This page covers Brolga habitats and behaviour. Size, calls, locations and population numbers are in FAQ 1. Food, drinking and breeding are in FAQ 2, and conservation is in FAQ 4». Background to Brolgas and Sarus Cranes with comparison photos is on Ozcranes Australia/New Guinea Cranes Intro page. Interactions between Brolgas and Sarus Cranes are in Sarus Crane FAQ 3».


Brolgas roosting

Brolgas need shallow water every day to drink, bathe and roost overnight. As well, wetlands are essential for nesting and provide many daytime feeding sites. Almost all southern Brolgas breed on farms, in the north they use pastoral properties and protected lands. There is a vast range of ‘wetland’ types Brolgas use. Especially during the non-breeding (drier) season they move to remaining water sources as others dry, using bore drains and soaks in arid areas, all types and sizes of pastoral and agricultural storages with shallow edges, coastal mudflats, inland swamps.

↑ Brolgas roosting in shallow water, W Qld (Bob Forsyth)

Non-breeding daytime feeding areas are also varied and may be far from water, on farms and other rural lands. Brolgas are attracted to feed on burnt grassland sites, and some traditional Dry season burning in the north was done to attract them as game. Sites with very dense vegetation (aquatic or on land) are avoided.

Pick Swamp

↑ Pick Swamp, SE South Australia, a major wetland restoration project (Matt Herring)

↓ Brolga at restored wetland Winter Swamp (Mullahwallah Wetlands) near Ballarat, Victoria (Ed Dunens)

Brolga at Winter Swamp

More about Brolga wetlands on Ozcranes:


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Brolgas, like cranes worldwide, are famous for the spectacular leaping and bowing displays (‘dances’) which are part of pair formation and longterm bonding. The pattern of the unison call trumpeted during displays is unique to each species. They defend their partner and young aggressively and even in non-breeding season flocks, each pair (and the current season's young, if any) keep separate from others so a flock is really a collection of families, plus perhaps some independent immatures still looking for a partner. This separation also applies in flocks flying to roost. They follow a V-formation, but often split with some cranes landing at a particular roost, some flying on elsewhere. Preening, bathing, wing stretching and similar actions are essential repair and maintenance known as ‘comfort behaviour’, for healthy feathers and muscles. Ian Fraser has a good explanation here (and scroll down for another Brolga preening image).

Brolga preening Brolga stretching wings Brolgas disputing

Brolga preening at Hasties Swamp, north Qld (Jan O'Sullivan); Brolga stretching wings (P Merritt); Brolgas disputing (International Crane Foundation)

For an excellent set of images of Brolga courtship displays (‘dancing’) visit Greg Miles images on Flickr. For images of Brolgas and Sarus Cranes taking off, landing and in flight, see Ozcranes Flight Gallery ».

VIDEOS: Brolgas displaying on roadside, wet season, far north Western Australia; courtship display - bowing, jumping, bill-touching: Northern Territory (YouTube). Brolga courtship display at sunrise, Victoria (from Brolga Recovery Group, on Vimeo).

Roosting On landing, the birds move slowly towards water to drink, bathe, preen and dance, then roost usually in the shallows. To get airborne again Brolgas need a run-up, or may walk up a steep grassy hill and take off into the valley.

Agonistic behaviour

Some examples of agonistic, or combative/ aggressive behaviour by Brolgas to other species:

[1] NF Stanley et al. (1972). ‘The Brolga bites back.’ Med J Aust Dec. 23 2(26): 1461-1462.

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Next: Brolga FAQ 4»

« Back to Brolga FAQ 1 or « Brolga FAQ 2

« Back to Brolga & Sarus Crane Introduction

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