A love for life on Naree

Friday 21 December, 2012
BrolgaWith wings spread wide, the silver brolgas jump, dance, pirouette and prance... Photo: George Pergaminelis

Some birds attract a mate with a beautiful song, some flash their bright feathers and some, like the brolga or the Australian crane, like to do "a bit of a dance".

Brolgas have these elaborate courtship routines where they pick up sticks and leap high in the air, flapping their wings,” says Professor Richard Kingsford, an ornithologist (bird specialist) from the University of New South Wales, who has studied Naree’s bird populations for many years, and who has provided Bush Heritage with critical information to help make the decision to buy this special place.

With wings spread wide, the silver brolgas jump, dance, pirouette and prance on their long, stilt-like legs, while making loud trumpeting calls to each other. They beat their wings, bow and bob their red-banded heads – all in the name of love.

The brolga show

The brolga’s mating dance, which is often performed in flocks, is actually much more than just a show. “It’s about bonding with their lifelong partner,” says Richard. “When they mate, they do so for life, but this dance continues on even after they’ve chosen a mate. It’s an important way of reinforcing their commitments to each other.”

“They’re majestic, absolutely beautiful birds,” he adds. “They’re the largest waterbird in Australia, but they’re very elegant and graceful. When they walk through the bush they’ve got such slow deliberate steps. They’re never in a hurry.”

A special place for a special bird

Though brolgas are widespread across Australia, and most commonly found in the north, one of their most important areas in southern Australia is around Naree.

“This part of the world is really important for these birds,” explains Richard. “Many of the world’s wetlands and rivers have been dammed and the water taken away, which means they lose their vitality. Naree still floods and dries naturally so we often see brolgas in large numbers here.”

Lots of fresh, natural water means lots of life. There are plenty of frogs, tadpoles, fish, small mammals and large crustaceans for brolgas to forage on and feed their young with.

On Naree, brolgas breed around January to June when the floods have delivered plenty of water. This is when they lay their eggs in the middle of the wetlands, on grass nests made into little platforms. Hence, the best time to view brolgas at Naree is just after the breeding season when they congregate in flocks.

Fight not flight

Any dramatic changes to the brolga’s environment, like water supply, could affect their food source and the ability to protect their young from feral pigs, foxes and cats.

“The brolga’s biggest threat is loss of habitat, particularly through draining of swamps and wetlands,” says Jim Radford, Bush Heritage’s Science and Monitoring Manager. “The areas where they breed are often destroyed through farming practices, which has happened across much of Australia.”

Thanks to the Kaluders, who have been careful not to overgraze and erode the land, this hasn’t occurred at Naree Station.

Thanks to Bush Heritage supporters like you, we’ve been able to act quickly to protect the brolga’s home by buying Naree Station. But there is much work still to do. While we’ve been able to secure the property, we still have to pay for it, and for critical set-up costs, a baseline ecological survey, and stopping the damage being caused by feral pigs and goats.

You can help safeguard this wonderful species for many more generations to come, by supporting the purchase of Naree Station – and that will give us all something to dance about.

Read more about Dr Richard Kingsford and the role he has played in the story of Naree Station.

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