Overberg's Blue Cranes
Did you know?
Blue cranes mate for life and dance with each other to seal the relationship.
When you drive through the Overberg region of the Western Cape, keep an eye out for South Africa's national bird, the blue crane, that gathers in numbers on the wheat fields here.
During spring and summer, breeding birds can often be seen in the open wheat fields with their young ones. In late summer, they start to gather in large flocks but during the winter months they become more nomadic as they go in search of food.
Blue cranes are monogamous and are believed to mate for life. If you're lucky, you might catch them engaged in an elegant courtship dance with their wings spread wide.
The female usually lays two eggs and both birds sit on the nest until they hatch. It takes the chicks three to five months before they can fly and the parents will be extremely protective during this period.
But while these birds might look plentiful when seen in flocks, the fact is that the blue crane is vulnerable.
There are only around 25 000 individuals left in the world, about half of which can be found in the Overberg. They are susceptible to illegal trade, power-line collisions, habitat loss and poisoning and their numbers have dropped significantly in grassland areas of the country.
Overberg bird conservation took off in 1991 when Cape Nature Conservation and the Overberg community established the Overberg Crane Group (OCG) to promote the conservation of cranes within the region east of Cape Town The OCG runs an ongoing campaign to determine the conservation status of the blue crane.
They also work to reduce crane mortalities, address problems that the big birds cause to farmers, monitor the effectiveness of present conservation methods and promote the long term survival of blue cranes outside of nature reserves by providing information and advice to the public. Each year, keen birders also gather for an annual coordinated avifaunal roadcount (CAR) to establish crane numbers.
Overberg birding is generally very rewarding for local and international birdwatchers. Besides the sought-after cranes, keen birders should keep their eyes peeled for Stanley's bustard, Cape vulture, Agulhas long-billed lark, Cape spurfowl and southern tchagra.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Overberg Crane Group
Tel: +27 (0)82 676 1734 (Chairman Mick D'Alton)
How to get here
The Overberg is an agricultural area east of Cape Town in the Western Cape and is easily accessible by road.
Best time to visit
The blue crane is a resident species and can be found year-round in the Overberg.
Around the area
Hermanus is the centre for whale watching in South Africa, which is best done in the winter months of July through November. It's also home to some superb beaches.
The best way to search for blue cranes is by car. Try to drive smaller roads that pass through the countryside to increase your chance of finding the national bird.
Length of stay
Searching for blue cranes makes for an excellent day trip through the gorgeous scenery of the Western Cape.
Where to stay
There are many accommodation options available in the Overberg, in the towns Hermanus, Stanford, Swellendam or Napier.