From the outback: looking for Sarus Cranes and Brolga in Australia

by Gopi Sundar

Sarus Cranes are one of the 11 threatened species of cranes in the world. They are spread out across south Asia, south-east Asia, and Australia.

Along with the International Crane Foundation, NCF’s Cranes and Wetlands Programme has initiated long-term work in several locations in south Asia.

Now, working with colleagues at the University of Melbourne and independent crane experts from Queensland, we are initiating work in Australia.

The Australian population of Sarus is very very poorly known. They are restricted almost entirely to the north-eastern corner of the country in Queensland, with most breeding records from the Gulf Plains and the Cape York Peninsula.

We recently completed a survey – the first of several to come – to understand basic aspects of Sarus ecology. In this part of the world, the Sarus shares the landscape with another very special crane that is found only in Australia and New Zealand – the Brolga.

Sarus and Brolga are very closely related, and even look similar except for the larger amount of red skin on the upper neck on the Sarus.

We discovered that these two species breed all along the Gulf of Carpentaria, and used various kinds of wetlands within forested grasslands, which form extensive cattle stations with millions of cattle and horses.

Australian Sarus therefore enjoy several unique traits including living in forests, compared to the open rice fields in south Asia.

Along with our partners in Australia, we hope to uncover the needs of the Gulf Cranes to help with their conservation.

 The Sarus and Brolga along the Gulf appear to use a lot of the same areas, using various kinds of wetlands found scattered between trees and beside roads, the grasslands, while also using the stunning river banks alongside a plethora of other bird species.
Thanks to the low human density, these crane habitats were also stunning vistas. 


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