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Searching For the missing Wattled Crane

Updated on June 29, 2013
Blue Crane-S.A.National Bird
Blue Crane-S.A.National Bird | Source
Grey-crowned Crane
Grey-crowned Crane | Source
Secretary Bird in full breading colors
Secretary Bird in full breading colors | Source
Potholed road to Luneberg-we were warned!
Potholed road to Luneberg-we were warned! | Source
Searching for the Wattled Crane
Searching for the Wattled Crane | Source
A very elegant Malachite Sunbird
A very elegant Malachite Sunbird | Source

Three cranes in South Africa; Blue, Wattled and Grey-crowned

Searching for the third Crane.

As a keen birdwatcher it is always good to complete a full-house of any family of birds. There are only three types of Crane in Southern Africa and we have been fortunate enough to often see and photograph two of them.

The beautiful Grey Crowned Crane is common in the Eastern Cape and so we have often enjoyed seeing them in the fields next to the road. A pair breeds at the Gonubie Nature Reserve nearby and we have been fortunate enough to watch them there with chick in tow. At the nearby Wiggleswade Dam we saw a large group doing a fly-past while we were on a Saturday morning Bird Club outing in that area.

Blue Crane, South Africa’s National Bird, is sometimes found in our area but a trip to the Southern or Western Cape is certain to find these elegant birds feeding in the grass lands near the roads. They often do their dance ritual during the mating season. Sometimes we have seen them with groups of sheep in the Karoo near dams, and they seem to enjoy moving around in large flocks.

The third Southern African Crane is the locally endangered Wattled Crane. According to recent reports in the media, put out by Bird Life South Africa, there are only a few hundred of these Cranes left in our country. They are found in vleis (wetlands) on the highlands. Because these wetland areas are under threat these birds may soon disappear from our country.

On a visit to the USA in 2009 we were fortunate enough to see some Sandhill Cranes in Florida and also a couple of the highly endangered Whooping Cranes in the Arkansas National Reserve on the Gulf Coast. So our world list is growing. Now we want to find our own red listed crane.

Attending a family reunion in Mpumalanga this month has given us the opportunity to spend two nights on the way at Wakkerstroom to look for this third kinds of South African Cranes. This grass highland area is the best place to find the Wattled Cranes, and a bird guide from S.A. Birdlife will hopefully show us where they are.

“Take the road to Luneberg” was the advice from the local representative from Birdlife South Africa,” and if you see one of the farmers in the area they will be pleased to help you as they are very proud of their cranes.” "But watch out the road is very bad!" Advice we followed to the letter. The road was as bad as we had been warned, and the young farmer as helpful as we were advised.

The local bird guide named Lucky was already booked by a group of Swiss birders, but did not live up to his name as we were informed on the road to Luneberg when we met them. “But we did see three Secretary Birds” he informed us with a big smile. So we saved the fee that Lucky got from the Swiss birders who seemed happy enough to see the large Secretary birds and also a beautiful Malachite Sunbird on their return to Wakkerstroom where we again caught up with them outside a park. Here they were taking photos of this green,elegant Sunbird with their big cameras as it fed in an Aloes.

The third Crane species remains open on our “life list” but who knows, one day we may be able to return and complete it.


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    • Johan Smulders profile image

      Johan Smulders 4 years ago from East London, South Africa

      You are right we have seen Flamingos in places they have not been for ages.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      In view of what has been happening in the rest of the world, you are likely to see your Wattled Crane where it has never appeared before. Don't overlook that this year.