Once again the Clarence Valley has been visited by some remarkable wildlife. About 60 Brolgas (Grus rubicunda) have taken up residence in the Lawrence area as part of their nomadic response to seasonal rain.
These graceful birds are one of our larger species of bird; with a wing span over 2 metres. The large outspread wings feature in the spectacular courtship rituals for which these birds are renowned. These elaborate rituals of the Brolga are important to indigenous culture. An Aboriginal legend tells of a beautiful young woman who loved to dance. She was turned into a tall, slender bird. The intricate brolga dance is replicated in some of the Aboriginal dances.
The Brolga is a grey crane with a distinct red head and a dark dewlap under the chin – characteristics which can be seen in this photo (© Linda Wright). The legs are dark grey and extend behind the tail when the bird is in flight. The males and females are similar in appearance. Brolgas generally live in flocks on large open wetlands, grassy plains, coastal mudflats and irrigated croplands, where they feed on vegetable matter such as tubers, grains and grasses, as well as some insects and small animals. Brolgas form island nests, which may protect them from some feral predators such as foxes and cats.
Our wetlands provide critical habitat for many migratory or nomadic species that visit the Clarence Valley, and is one of the primary reasons why these areas should be preserved. Indeed, protection of the natural wetland system, including both temporary and permanent inundation of freshwater, intertidal and estuarine areas is important for most of our wildlife.
As well as dependence on limited wetlands, the Brolga faces several challenges for which it has poor recovery potential. Their population and range has been significantly reduced since European settlement. Though these birds are widespread in northern Australia they are considered vulnerable in New South Wales. So we are lucky to see this number visiting, and lucky to have the wetlands to support them.
To view an active display of these beautiful birds visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biY6jr4zywM
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