Blue Crane, the national bird of South Africa.

Blue Crane (Anthropoides paradiseus).

The Blue Crane used to nest on my old farm, where I managed to capture them on film (I mean old time photographs), these I lost when our house was flooded and everything went floating down the river.

The photos I captured recently in a conservation area, a beautiful bird that stands proudly, till a parachutist flies overhead. I was astounded when these birds standing calmly started to get very agitated and were watching the sky. Expecting to capture an eagle of sorts I looked up, and there was this person floating past with a parachute. Where he came from, and where he went, I have no idea..

The Blue Crane is a tall, ground-dwelling bird, but is fairly small by the standards of the crane family. It is 100–120 cm (3 ft. 3 in–3 ft. 10 in) tall, with a wingspan of 180–200 cm (5 ft. 10 in–6 ft. 7 in) and weighs 3.6–6.2 kg (7.9–14 lb.).

This crane is pale blue-grey in colour becoming darker on the upper head, neck and nape.  The bill is ochre to greyish, with a pink tinge. The long wingtip feathers, trail to the ground. The primaries are black to slate grey, with dark coverts and blackish on the secondary’s. Unlike most cranes, it has a relatively large head and a proportionately thin neck.

In South Africa it has a Cultural history…

The Blue Crane is a bird very special to the amaXhosa, who call it indwe. When a man distinguished himself by deeds of valour, or any form of meritorious conduct, he was often decorated by a chief, being presented with the feathers of this bird. After a battle, the chief would organise a ceremony called ukundzabela – a ceremony for the heroes, at which feathers would be presented. Men so honoured, wore the feathers sticking out of their hair, were known as men of ugaba (trouble) – the implication being that if trouble arose, these men would reinstate peace and order. The Skull Crackers….

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41 thoughts on “Blue Crane, the national bird of South Africa.

  1. A blue crane! Wow, what a beautiful bird! I did not know about this bird either. I am quite fond of the red headed crane with its significant meaning in japanese (and other asian) cultures.
    You are fortunate to be able to witness and photograph such a wide variety of birds and wildlife!

    • I have often wondered if the readers out there are interested in this type detail… us not all being birders… but I thought for those that are.. put it in ….the others will just skip it… Glad you enjoy the few details….

    • The bird does have a “gaminlike” appearance, a word I think used to describe her… looking at older photos of her when she was younger… I do see a certain likeness… almost regal..

    • One could start a story of “the men from umgubaba” with their blue crane feathers…. but best is lets not get started on that I’ve got too much work to do today… It is an awesome bird… thank you, for the complement … coming from you it is high praise… Mrs Professional photographer…

  2. Love these beautiful birds. they are so graceful, and look like they’re dancing when they walk. They probably though the parachutist was another type of bird they hadn’t seen before. 🙂 Great photos again.

    • The parachute canopy was a red striped one… they probably though they had a new type eagle descending on them…. they are such lovely birds… now my next ambition is to capture their mating dance…..

    • I was in a hide and at one stage could have put my hand out and touched them…. they are to me so poised and regal… slowly moving around like the Queen… you almost expect them to wave royally to you…

    • Thank you so much.. I’m glad you find the birds so fantastic or splendid… they have a very regal and confident air about them… hanno un aria molto regale e fiducioso su di loro….

  3. As usual, you have a way of capturing beauty … on one leg my fav.

    By the way, we went to the zoo this weekend, and I thought of you when a rhino got into a stare-down with us.

    • That stare can be like looking at a bully… is he gonna hit me or not… the other day when photoing the rhinos doing battle… they would get too close to the car and I would start the engine… they would stop and stare at me, now you wonder are they going to charge??… will my car be fast enough to get away?? and it’s at that time you want to take the shot but daren’t in-case you have 4 tons bearing down from 10 m (30ft) away…

  4. beautiful! 1 and 2 look like they could be models for a Japanese painting. The last photo really captures the essence of this beautiful bird.

  5. OMG!!!!!!
    I love these pictures!
    when I go to Sardinia, I love to watch flamingos, but I maia vito fotuna to photograph the heart so … congratulations … you’re very good …. and they are beautiful birds ….
    do you have some flamingo?? 🙂
    vento 🙂

    • Many of the birds are banded at birth to be able to keep tags and build up data on their movements…. so many meet their demise from flying into power lines.. and the necessary body can then trace their beginning and end… they are a protected specie and climbing on the IRDL (International Red Data List)

  6. Aw…how grand that they hold such a place of honour. I think I’ve seen men in Nat. Geographic with the feathers sticking out of their hair. Little did I realize the significance! Thank you so much for this great photo essay.

    • Thank you so much… I’m not sure the tradition continues today as the bird is protected… getting a bit deeper into the Red Data list… not from the tribes, but as they enjoy the open plains, they tend not to see the massive power lines erected in what must appear to them, as ideal landing spots…

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