Southern Africa: E and S South Africa; Etosha Pan, Namibia.
Highveld Grasslands Habitat
This species can be found in the Highveld grasslands ecoregion in southern Africa. This ecoregion now provides the last remaining stronghold of a number of grassland species that have suffered major reductions in abundance in the grassland biome, and which are consequently threatened with extinction (e.g. the Blue Crane (Anthropoides paradisea). There is a relatively biodiverse vertebrate fauna, with 608 taxa recorded.
The dominant vegetation comprises grasses, with geophytes and herbs also being well represented. Dominant and diagnostic grass species are Thatching Grass (Hyparrhenia hirta) and Catstail Dropseed Grass (Sporobolus pyramidalis). Non-grassy forbs include False Paperbark Thorn (Acacia sieberiana), Rhus vulgaris, Selago densiflora, Spermacoce natalensis, Aandblom (Kohautia cynanchica), and Phyllanthus glaucophyllus. Relatively high precipitation levels sustain the grasslands during the austral summer, with the mean annual range between 400 to 900 millimetres.
The Highveld grassland ecoregion can be divided into three habitat types: (1) Kalahari/Karoo-highveld transition zone; (2) sweet grasslands; and (3) sour grasslands. In the western half of the ecoregion, a gradual transition occurs from the Karoo/Kalahari-highveld transition zone to the grassland habitats of the Highveld. Shrubs and trees grow in the transition zone, although grasses still dominate this zone.
Bird species richness is relatively high within this ecoregion. However, Botha’s Lark (Spizocorys fringillaris) is the only bird species strictly endemic to the ecoregion, where it inhabits heavily grazed grassland. An additional six avian species are near-endemics including White-winged Flufftail (Sarothrura ayresii), Blue Korhaan (Eupodotis caerulescens), White-bellied Bustard (Eupodotis senegalensis), Rudd’s lark (Heteromirafra ruddi), the Near Threatened Melodious lark (Mirafra cheniana), Buff-streaked chat (Saxicola bifasciatus), and the Vulnerable Yellow-breasted pipit (Anthus chloris).
This ecoregion contains a higher number of mammals, although only the Orange Mouse (Mus orangiae) is restricted to the ecoregion, and the Rough-haired Golden Mole (Chrysospalax villosa) is near-endemic. The ecoregion also supports populations of several large mammal species, some of which are rare in southern Africa (Stuart and Stuart 1995). Among these are the Vulnerable Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), Brown Hyena (Hyaena brunnea), African Civet Cat (Civettictis civetta), Leopard (Panthera pardus), Sable Antelope (Hippotragus niger), Ground Pangolin (Manis temminckii), Honey Badger (Mellivora capensis), African Striped Weasel (Poecilogale albinucha), Aardwolf (Proteles cristatus), Oribi (Ourebia ourebi), and Hartmann's Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra hartmannae). Herds of large mammals, including Black Wildebeest (Connochaetes gnou) and White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum), previously occurred in the Highveld grasslands, but were extirpated by the local human population. Other notable mammalian taxa occurring in the ecoregion include the Vulnerable Juliana's golden mole (Neamblysomus julianae).
Relatively few reptile species occur within the Highveld grasslands, mainly due to its cool climate. However, the ecoregion supports some of Africa’s most characteristic reptile species, including Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus), African Rock-python (Python sebae), Nile Monitor (Varanus niloticus) and Veld Monitor (Varanus albigularis albigularis). There are also two strictly endemic reptiles: Giant Girdled Lizard (Cordylus giganteus) and Agama aculeata distanti (Branch 1998). Several additional reptile species are near-endemics, including Drakensberg Rock gecko (Afroedura niravia), the Vulnerable Giant Girdled Lizard (Cordylus giganteus), and Breyer's Whip Lizard (Tetradactylus breyeri) (Branch 1998).
Twenty-nine amphibians occur within the ecoregion but none are endemic (Passmore and Carruthers 1995). Example anuran species in the Highveld grasslands are the Kimberley Toad (Amietophrynus poweri), African Dwarf Toad (Poyntonophrynus vertebralis), who breeds in temporary shallow pans, freshwater pools or depressions containing rainwater; the Red Toad (Schismaderma carens); Cape River Frog (Amietia fuscigula). endemic of the high slopes of the Drakensberg Mountains and Lesotho Highlands; South African Snake-necked Frog (Phrynomantis bifasciatus), typically found under loose sand below large rocks or boulders.
- C. Michael Hogan & World Wildlife Fund. 2015. Highveld grasslands. Encyclopedia of Earth. National Council for Science and Environment. Washington DC
- J.P.H. Acocks. 1988. Veld types of South Africa. Memoirs of the Botanical Survey of South Africa 57: 1-146. (An update of the first edition published in 1953),
Habitat and Ecology
Dry upland grassland, roosts and nests in wetlands
Movements and dispersal
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Anthropoides paradiseus
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
Barcode data: Grus paradisea
Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.
Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Grus paradisea
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
CITES Appendix II. CMS Appendix II. Conservation measures have expanded in scale since the mid-1980s, including efforts to mitigate power-line collisions, addressing illegal trade, the adoption of stricter legal protection, local and national surveys in South Africa, increasing research on the species's biology and ecology, habitat protection and management programmes (especially on private land), establishment of local conservation organisations, and the development of educational facilities, programmes and publications (Archibald and Meine 1996, Barnes 2000). The introduction of more ecologically sensitive agrochemicals and tighter controls over their use has reduced the number of poisoning events (K. Morrison et al. in litt. 2007). The formation of a Crane Working Group in Namibia has facilitated education, surveys, ringing and protection (R. Simmons in litt. 2007). Future studies in Namibia will assess whether its population is genetically isolated from that in South Africa, and will use transmitters to help study habitat use, their choice of breeding areas and the occurrence of inter-breeding (Simmons et al. 2006). Conservation Actions Proposed
Prevent conversion of grassland habitat to other land uses and secure sites critical to cranes in the grasslands (K. Morrison et al. in litt. 2007). Monitor the species's population trends through regular surveys. Include habitat management in future planning of afforestable regions (Barnes 2000). Encourage more responsible use of agrochemicals (Barnes 2000). Target awareness campaigns at the farming community so as to increase awareness and reduce deliberate poisoning of cranes for food (Barnes 2000, K. Morrison et al. in litt. 2007). Further research the impacts and risk factors involved in power-line collisions, and use the results of this research to make hazardous power-lines more visible with appropriate devices (Barnes 2000, Shaw et al. 2010). Discourage the taking of fledglings from the wild (Barnes 2000). Encourage the retention of a mosaic of pasture and cereal cultivation in the Western Cape (Bidwell et al. 2006). Increase conservation protection of grasslands and wetlands north of Etosha National Park (K. Morrison et al. in litt. 2007) and establish captive breeding populations to support future reintroduction and supplementation efforts. A Biodiversity Management Plan for Species for cranes, as outlined in the National Biodiversity Act (2004) would encourage national support for crane conservation efforts.
The blue crane (Anthropoides paradiseus), also known as the Stanley crane and the paradise crane, is the national bird of South Africa.
The blue crane is a tall, ground-dwelling bird, but is fairly small by the standards of the crane family. It is 100–120 cm (3 ft 3 in–3 ft 11 in) tall, with a wingspan of 180–200 cm (5 ft 11 in–6 ft 7 in) and weighs 3.6–6.2 kg (7.9–13.7 lb). Among standard measurements, the wing chord measures 51.4–59 cm (20.2–23.2 in), the exposed culmen measures 8–10 cm (3.1–3.9 in) and the tarsus measures 20.5–25.2 cm (8.1–9.9 in). This crane is pale blue-gray in colour becoming darker on the upper head, neck and nape. From the crown to the lores, the plumage is distinctly lighter, sometimes whitish. The bill is ochre to greyish, with a pink tinge. The long wingtip feathers which trail to the ground. The primaries are black to slate grey, with dark coverts and blackish on the secondaries. Unlike most cranes, it has a relatively large head and a proportionately thin neck. Juveniles are similar but slightly lighter, with tawny coloration on the head, and no long wing plumes.
Blue cranes are birds of the dry grassy uplands, usually the pastured grasses of hills, valleys, and plains with a few scattered trees. They prefer areas in the nesting season that have access to both upland and wetland areas, though they feed almost entirely in dry areas. They are altitudinal migrants, generally nesting in the lower grasslands of an elevation of around 1,300 to 2,000 m and moving down to lower altitudes for winter. Though historically found in areas of low human disturbance, the blue crane is currently thriving in the highly transformed agricultural areas of the Western Cape. This is the only portion of its range where the population is increasing, though they still face threats such as poisoning in the region.
Movements and behaviour
Of the 15 species of crane, the blue crane has the most restricted distribution of all. Even species with lower population numbers now (such as Siberian or whooping cranes) are found over a considerable range in their migratory movements. The blue crane is migratory, primarily altitudinal, but details are little known.
The blue crane is partially social, less so during the breeding season. There is a strict hierarchy in groups, with the larger adult males being dominant. They overlap in range with 3 other crane species but interactions with these species and other "large wader" type birds are not known. They are relentlessly aggressive to various other animals during the nesting season, attacking non-predatory species such as cattle, tortoises, plovers and even sparrows. Humans are also attacked if they approach a nest too closely, with the aggressive male having torn clothes and drawn blood in such cases.
Blue cranes feed from the ground and appear to rarely feed near wetland areas. Most of their diet is comprised by grasses and sedges, with many types fed on based on their proximity to the nests. They are also regularly insectivorous, feeding on numerous, sizeable insects such as grasshoppers. Small animals such as crabs, snails, frogs, small lizards and snakes may supplement the diet, with such protein-rich food often being broken down and fed to the young.
The breeding period is highly seasonal, with eggs being recorded between October and March. Pair-formation amongst groups often beings in October, beginning with both potential parents running in circles with each other. The male then engages in a "dance" flings various objects in the air and then jumps. Eventually, a female from the group and the male appear to "select" each other and both engage in the dance of throwing objects and jumping. After the dance, mating commences in around two weeks.
In a great majority of known nests, two eggs are laid (rarely 1 or 3). Both males are females will incubate, with the male often incubating at night and, during the day, defending the nest territory while the female incubates. The incubation stage lasts around 30 days. The young are able to walk after two days and can swim well shortly thereafter. They are fed primarily by their mothers, who regurgitates food into the mouths. The chicks fledge in the age of 3-5 months. The young continue to be tended to until the next breeding season, at which time they are chased off by their parents.
While it remains common in parts of its historic range, and approx. 26 000 individuals remain, it began a sudden population decline from around 1980 and is now classified as vulnerable.
In the last two decades, the blue crane has largely disappeared from the Eastern Cape, Lesotho, and Swaziland. The population in the northern Free State, Limpopo, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and North West Province has declined by up to 90%. The majority of the remaining population is in eastern and southern South Africa, with a small and separate population in the Etosha Pan of northern Namibia. Occasionally, isolated breeding pairs are found in five neighbouring countries.
The primary causes of the sudden decline of the blue crane are human population growth, the conversion of grasslands into commercial tree plantations, and poisoning: deliberate (to protect crops) or accidental (baits intended for other species, and as a side-effect of crop dusting).
The South African government has stepped up legal protection for the blue crane. Other conservation measures are focusing on research, habitat management, education, and recruiting the help of private landowners.
The blue crane is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.
The blue crane is culturally significant to the Xhosa people, who call it indwe. Traditionally, when a man distinguished himself in battle or otherwise, he was often decorated by a chief with blue crane feathers in a ceremory called ukundzabela. Men so honoured, who would wear the feathers sticking out of their hair, were known as men of ugaba (trouble)—the implication being that if trouble arose, they would reinstate peace and order.
Anthropoides paradisea No. 1
Anthropoides paradisea No. 2
Anthropoides paradisea No. 3
- BirdLife International (2013). "Anthropoides paradiseus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Blue Crane at BirdLife International Data Zone
- Blue Crane listing at the Melbourne Museum website
- Blue Crane at oiseaux-birds.com
- Wildenboer, Norma (16 February 2015). "Blue crane massacre". Diamond Fields Advertiser. IOL. Retrieved 25 February 2015.
- "Indwe Trust - About". Indwe Trust. Retrieved 2013-06-14.
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