One of the most obvious features of the Brolga’s behaviour is its courtship display, an elaborate dance. The dance begins with a pair of birds picking up grass, tossing it into the air and catching it again. This is followed by the birds repeatedly leaping a metre into the air with wings outstretched, followed by stretching their necks upwards, bowing to one another, bobbing their heads, walking about and calling. Sometimes the dance is done alone or in a group, with the birds lining up opposite one another.

The Brolga is a large grey crane, with a featherless red head and grey crown. The legs are grey and there is a black dewlap under the chin. Females are shorter than males. The energetic dance performed by the Brolga is a spectacular sight. Displays may be given at any time of the year and by birds of any age.

Habitat and Range
The Brolga is found across tropical northern Australia, southwards through north-east and east central areas, as well as central New South Wales to western Victoria. The Brolga inhabits large open wetlands, grassy plains, coastal mudflats and irrigated croplands and, less frequently, mangrove-studded creeks and estuaries. It is less common in arid and semi-arid regions, but will occur close to water.

Brolgas are omnivorous (feeding on both vegetable and animal matter), but primarily feed upon tubers and some crops. Some insects, molluscs, amphibians and even mice are also taken.

Brolgas probably mate for life, and pair bonds are strengthened during elaborate courtship displays, which involve much dancing, leaping, wing-flapping and loud trumpeting. An isolated territory is established, and is vigorously defended by both partners. The white (blotched with brown and purple) eggs are laid in a single clutch. The nest is a large mound of vegetation on a small island in a shallow waterway or swamp. Both adults incubate the eggs and care for the young birds.

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Text © Birdlife Australia
Image © Jona Photography