• Brolga (Grus rubicundus)


    Article and Photography © Dale Mengel

    The Brolga (Grus rubicundus) is one of 2 species of crane found in Australia. Also known as the Australian Crane or Native Companion, the Brolga receives its name from an Aboriginal Dreamtime story where a beautiful young woman called Bralgah (Brolga), who loved to dance, was captured by an evil spirit and turned in to a bird with a long neck.

    Although abundant in Australia’s north, the Brolga is uncommon to rare in the south of the country.


    The Brolga is a large bird, standing 70cm to 1.3m in height. It is mid-grey to silver-grey in colour, has a ‘bustle’ of feathers over the rump, a straight, horn-coloured bill, a yellow eye and a pale grey forehead and crown with red around the rear of the head running from eye to eye. They have a blackish, ‘haired’ dewlap under the chin which is larger on the males. The well known trumpeting call is uttered in flight or standing; mated pairs pointing their bills skyward in antiphonal duets. From a distance, this can be confused with the call of the Channel-billed Cuckoo.



    Nests are often built on small islands in a wetland using grass, plant stems and sticks. Occasionally eggs will be laid on bare ground. Post-breeding colonies can number in the hundreds in Australia’s north. Although they are found in a wide range of habitats, in the Whitsunday area they prefer wetlands, paddocks, ploughed canefields and grasslands where they feed on seeds, roots, bulbs, reptiles, frogs, fish, insects and larvae.

    One such habitat is Goorganga Wetlands, east of Proserpine, where the birds can be seen to initiate their dancing displays by throwing clumps of grass in the air whilst jumping and flapping their wings. Although there are a few family groups, one pair of brolgas have frequented the wetlands for the past 7 years where they have raised many offspring. Brolgas, once mated, will stay together for life.

    Comments 6 Comments
    1. Richard Hall's Avatar
      Richard Hall -
      Interesting article Dale, never heard them called 'Native Companion' before, it has quite a nice sound to it. The two birds captured together is a delightful image!
    1. Paul Randall's Avatar
      Paul Randall -
      Great work Dale, thanks for contributing with this interesting article
    1. Gerard Satherley's Avatar
      Gerard Satherley -
      Excellent read and great images Dale. I agree with Rich that image of the pair is a cracker.
    1. Dale Mengel's Avatar
      Dale Mengel -
      Thanks guys, I thoroughly enjoyed writing the article and would gladly put my hand up to do another; a great way to learn more about a particular bird
    1. Adam Blyth's Avatar
      Adam Blyth -
      Excellent article. The placement of the third image is a little clumsy though, looks weird with that text all squished in between the two images!
    1. Kirri Hardy's Avatar
      Kirri Hardy -
      Loved the article and the images...i was once camping in Boulia at the little caravan park and had an immature and adult walk right up to my face...obviously very tame and expecting some food...was strange to be eyeball to eyeball with that long beak ....