There is perhaps no more stately Australian bird than the pale grey, long-legged brolga. When dancing, brolgas line up roughly opposite each other before starting movements: they step forwards on the long, stilt legs with wings half-open and shaking. Bowing and bobbing their heads to advance and retire. Now and then the bird will stop and, throwing its head back, trumpet wildly. They are the only crane endemic to the Australian region and tend to migrate between breeding and non-breeding sites.
Brolgas are found in open swamplands of coastal and sub coastal tropical Australia, ranging from the eastern interior to a small local population through the Murray Darling Basin and western Victoria.
Brolgas feed on the tubers of sedges, which they dig up from underground with their bills. They also wil eat grain, mollusks and insects.
The brolga breeds between September and December in southern areas and February to June in the north. In the wet seasons, brolgas return to their breeding grounds in shallow swamplands and space themselves out in pairs to nest. They build a platform of dry grass and sedges about 1.5m diameter. Usually two cream eggs with reddish markings are laid and both sexes incubate them for 28-30 days.
The brolga and other cranes have elaborate courtship displays. This mating dance is what brolgas are most famous for. With wings spread and facing each other, the two brolgas jump, dance, pirouette, prance about and perform with a lot of head movement. Brolgas will often jump a metre into the air with wings outspread, or they will beat their wings whilst taking a few steps forward. At the same time they make loud trumpeting calls to each other. Although primarily a mating ritual, such displays do occur all year round, but to a much lesser degree.
We had better give you the run down on our resident rockin' boy brolga with the cool moves. You should see the 'grooving' and 'getting down' that Elvis gets up to in the wetlands, when the wind gets up and the mood takes hold.
Elvis is a strapping young bloke, who landed here from Taronga Zoo. He has been with us since 2002 and spends his time wining and dining Marilyn. If all his sweet talking pays off, we hope one day we'll have more brolgas to join in the parties down in the wetlands.
Marilyn is a gorgeous sheila with a slender build and long legs that seem to go on forever! Most of the time she is an absolute sweetie with a pleasant nature, but come tucker time she transforms; something like Jeckyll and Hyde! Yep, Marilyn is imprinted bird, so when she is hungry she is not backwards in letting you know and if you check her beak out, you can see that she is certainly capable of giving you a hurry up!