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There is no better place in the world to have a holiday than South Africa. For independent information, advice and facts about going on holiday to South Africa visit www.southafricaholiday.org.uk

South Africa Holiday: National Bird

The Blue Crane is South Africa's national bird. It is endemic to Southern Africa, with 99% occurring in South Africa. The Blue Crane is very special to the amaXhosa and amaZulu, often associated with warriors and royalty.

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Standing just over 1m tall, the Blue Crane (Anthropooedes paradisea), also called Stanley Crane is a light blue-grey, has a long neck supporting a rather bulbous head, long legs and elegant wing plumes which sweep to the ground.
The Blue Care is an endangered species, endemic to South Africa and Namibia. In the early 1960s, 100,000 birds were recorded. Today this has declined to 25,000 in South Africa (48% of which are in the Western Cape grain belts), with a small breeding colony of just 60 birds in Namibia.
Blue Cranes are summer breeders, laying a clutch of two eggs in a shallow depression, where the incubating bird has an unobstructed view of the surroundings. No actual nest is built. The eggs hatch after 30 to 33 days, and the buffy-headed chick spends 85 days or more being fed and tended to by both parents. Like all members of the crane family, adults bond and pair for life, and often perform elaborate dancing rituals prior to each breeding season.
Blue cranes are quite common in the Karoo, but are also seen in the grasslands of KwaZulu-Natal and the highveld, usually in pairs or small family parties.

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The blue crane has a distinctive rattling croak, fairly high-pitched at call, which can be heard from far away. It is, however, usually quiet.
The Blue Crane is a bird very special to the amaZulu and amaXhosa.
In Zulu culture only Zulu Kings are allowed to wear the feathers in their headdress.
In Xhosa culture, when a man distinguished himself by deeds of valour, or any form of meritorious conduct, he was often decorated by the chief by being presented with the feathers of the Blue Crane or Indwe.
After a battle, the chief would organise a ceremony called ukundzabela � a ceremony for the heroes, at which feathers from the indwe, would be presented.
Men so honoured � they wore the feathers sticking out of their hair � were known as men of ugaba (trouble) - the implication being that if trouble arose, these men would reinstate peace and order.
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