The Blue Crane is one of the smallest of the 15 crane species worldwide the Blue Crane is the national bird of South Africa. It’s endemic to southern Africa, with more than 99% of the population occurring within South Africa (a small disjunct breeding population of approximately 60 individuals exists in northern Namibia, in and around Etosha Pan).
Of the 15 species of crane, the Blue Crane has the most restricted distribution of all. While it remains common in parts of its historic range, and between 10,000 and 20,000 birds remain, it began a sudden population decline from around 1980 and is now classified as critically endangered.
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, KwaZulu-Natal, 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 neighboring 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.