A blue crane, also known as a paradise crane or Stanley crane, is one of the smaller members of the crane species. Blue cranes are 40 to 47 inches (1 to 1.2 m) tall, are about 50 inches (127 cm) long, have a wingspan of approximately 60 inches (152 cm) and weigh 8.8 to 13.6 pounds (4 to 6.2 kg). The blue crane has a distinctive coloration: Its body is a pale blue-gray, and it has a pink bill, a white crown and dark-gray wingtip feathers which are so long they almost reach the ground. Males and females of this type of crane have the same markings, but the male has a bill that is a little longer.
Blue cranes like to live in grasslands that are both open and arid or on plains where there are low bushes that are shrubby. Often, they also can be found in pasture and agricultural areas. In addition, the blue crane will feed and roost in shallow wetlands, where they are available.
The blue crane mainly eats plant material, including small bulbs, roots, tubers and the seeds of grasses and sedges. It is an omnivore, so it also will feed on several kinds of animal life. Blue cranes are partial to insects such as caterpillars and locusts as well as crabs, fish, reptiles and small mammals.
Geographically, the blue crane is found only in southern Africa. Almost all blue cranes live within the boundaries of the country of South Africa, and it is that country’s national bird. Less than 1 percent of blue cranes live elsewhere, and those are in very small, isolated populations in western Swaziland and northern Namibia. This species of crane migrates only locally. It spends the summer breeding season in grasslands at higher elevations and moves to lower elevations with its chicks in the fall and winter.
A pair of mated blue cranes will produce only a single brood of two eggs during breeding season. Blue cranes like to nest in isolated grasslands where the eggs will be laid either on the bare ground or in the middle of the grass. The eggs are incubated by both parents for approximately 30 days. After they have hatched, the chicks are cared for by both parents for 85 or more days, until their first flight. After that, the male becomes the protector, and the female nurtures the young birds.