The brolga is a large grey crane native to northern and eastern Australia. It is about a metre high with a 2 m wingspan, and its head is distinguished by a striking band of red. This gives it its species name Grus rubicunda*.

It is famed for its ornate mating dance. In Aboriginal legend Brolga was a beautiful maiden who loved dancing. She was spied by a wicked spirit living in the Milky Way, who turned into a willy-willy (whirlwind) and snatched her away. There are also stories of rivalry between the brolga and the emu.

The name is occasionally seen as brogla. Other names are Native Companion and Australian crane. Brolgas can interbreed with sarus cranes (Grus antigone), and their offspring are called sarolgas.

Brolgas live in very large flocks in wetlands. They prefer fresh water but can tolerate brackish, and have eye glands (tear ducts effectively) that can expel salt water, the only kind of crane so equipped.

Traditionally, pregnant women do not eat of the brolga or crane.

* Sources differ over whether it's rubicunda feminine or rubicundus masculine, so I checked a Latin dictionary. It says grus is feminine, but with a masculine alternative.

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