About Brolgas

The Brolga (Grus rubicunda) is a light-grey coloured crane, standing about 1.8 metres high. It has a long, straight bill, long dark coloured legs and a wing span of about 2 metres. Appearance changes with age. Juvenile birds (up to 10 months of age) have a grey, fully feathered head. Immature birds (11 to 22 months) gradually lose their head feathering and attain a pale orange-red head colouring.

Adults have a conspicuous orange-red head, which contrasts with the bare crown of greenish-grey skin and have a black dewlap under the chin. Adult males and females appear similar, although males are larger.

During the breeding period between July to December the main habitat is freshwater meadows or shallow freshwater marshes, although they have been known to nest in the shallows of deep freshwater marshes and in association with vegetation on permanent open waters. 
They also spend time on salt lakes throughout the region, probably feeding on brine shrimp and roosting. During the non breeding period from late December to early May, habitat comprises deep freshwater marshes, vegetated areas in permanent open water and feeding areas in pasture, seed and stubble crops. The Brolga is omnivorous and utilises a diverse range of food items on a seasonal basis, including vegetable material, amphibians, sometimes small fish and a wide range of invertebrates, including freshwater molluscs, crustaceans and insects.

Brolga pairs bond for life and have been known to utilise the same nesting areas for up to 20 years.

The above information has been adapted from Biodiversity Information, Resources and Data - BIRD

How many Brolgas remain in southwest Victoria?

While Brolgas may be abundant in northern Australia, these are geographically isolated from populations in southeast Australia, which have dwindled in recent years. At the April 2014 count, Brolga numbers in southwest Victoria were 464 (figure provided by Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning).

Northern Victoria has a population around 60–70 (figure from
Biodiversity Information, Resources and Data - BIRD).

The Brolga Recovery Group is extremely concerned at the decline in numbers and wants to ensure that these birds not only survive, but have the opportunity to flourish.

Why have numbers declined?

Drainage of shallow wetlands where Brolgas nest is the primary cause of the decline in Brolga numbers, compounded by predators such as foxes taking eggs and killing chicks. 
The cropping of swamps has been shown to result in a reduced diversity and density of plants compared with uncropped swamps (Casanova 2012). At a landscape level the widespread cropping of swamps could reduce the quantity and quality of Brolga habitat in the landscape.  (Adapted from Biodiversity Information, Resources and Data - BIRD).
See our Protecting Brolgas page for tips on how to help protect this species.

What is their conservation status in Victoria?
 
Brolgas are listed as threatened under Victoria’s Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act (1988) and are listed on Department of Sustainability and Environment’s 2013 Advisory List of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna in Victoria as Vulnerable.

An Action Statement under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act was developed by Department of Sustainability and Environment in 2003, highlighting intended management actions to prevent the further decline of the Brolga.