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 will eat grain, molluscs 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 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, to a much lesser degree.
Brolga’s Dancing in the Wild
The Aboriginal people have immortalised their graceful steps through dance.
In a well-known Dreaming about Brolga, she was a beautiful girl obsessed with dancing. A wirrinun (shaman) wanted her for his wife but she refused, as she refused all men. Dancing was her love and nothing else distracted her. He harboured resentment until one day, seeing her dancing alone on the plain he takes his chance, changes himself into a willy-willy (small whirlwind) and sweeps her into it with the intention of abducting her. The Great Spirit intervenes and she is transformed into Brolga as we see her today. She is still dancing.
Brolga emphasises the ability you have to pursue creative interests and talents, and still be supported. The girl was provided for by her tribe, allowed to practise skills, even though they were unnecessary for physical survival. Also, as a rare token of esteem, she was permitted to dance in the men’s’ corroborees. Brolga, perhaps the first career woman, strongly emphasises going for your dream and expressing yourself creatively on a professional level. All it requires is a belief in the Self and an investment of time – the evidence that self-expression can work is stamped out in Brolga’s dance!
It is obvious Brolga symbolises creativity, especially dance and self-expression. Brolga was a very good dancer, she loved it and all her energies went into it. What are you good at in your life? Brolga dances the elegant dance of creative expression, and asks you to join her!
Source: Native Symbols