Aside from habitat loss, a range of other man-made pressures threaten the very existence of these birds in the not-so-distant future.

The natural habitat of Blue Cranes and other threatened birds like Cape Vultures, Secretary Birds, Black Harriers, Denham’s Bustards, Korhaans and other Eagles is dwindling… even in the Overberg. This creates huge risks for these birds. There are more than 7 billion people in the world; but only 25,000 Blue Cranes are left. For other species, even fewer individuals remain: only around 9,000 Cape Vultures, and fewer than 1,000 mature Black Harriers are believed to remain. Aside from habitat loss, a range of other man-made pressures threaten these birds with possible extinction in the not-so-distant future.


Each of the bird species the Overberg Crane Group works to protect is dependent on a specific habitat: from fynbos to renosterveld, and other natural veld.


As natural veld is lost – as towns and cities grow, farming activities increase, or as invasive alien plants encroach on natural vegetation – bird numbers decrease. Take the Southern Black Korhaan – once regularly spotted in the Overberg and Swartland. Today, these birds are rarely seen here. Research shows these Korhaan prefer natural veld, and will use farmland only when they have to. Fires, invasive alien plants and agriculture affect the breeding habitat of Black Harriers. These threats are also notable in the Overberg. Blue Cranes are also affected by habitat loss throughout their range, with the loss of grassland habitats and wetlands a major cause for concern. In the Overberg, Blue Cranes use altered landscapes like pastures and stubble lands for nesting. The Overberg Crane Group works closely with farmers and others to protect the birds while using these habitats. We know the importance of our farming community, and the need to secure our food resources. So we work with land users to protect the critical biodiversity areas prioritised for conservation action – like the remaining renosterveld corridors.


Power lines and other infrastructure are a major threat to the Overberg’s birds. Blue Cranes in particular regularly collide with power lines, as they can’t see the power lines, especially when obscured by a dark background. Birds such as the Cape Vulture and Martial Eagle are often electrocuted.


A 2010 study found that around 12 percent of the total Blue Crane population in the Overberg is killed each year by power line collisions. That’s around 1500 Blue Cranes per year – an unsustainable amount. The OCG, through the Endangered Wildlife Trust, works with Eskom to mitigate this threat, by installing bird diverters to areas identified as high risk. The EWT/Eskom partnership also undertakes relevant research on this issue, and looks to prevent collisions and electrocutions from taking place. Visit the EWT’s website for more info.

You can also report wildlife fatalities linked to electrical infrastructure to: 0860 111 535 or email:

But power lines are only part of the problem. Wind turbines are increasingly popping up across the Overberg. This will undoubtedly increase the threats to Blue Cranes, Denham’s Bustards, Korhaans and other big (and small) birds. For the Overberg Crane Group and its partners, the aim is to encourage wind turbines that are well planned, and not a threat to Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas, and therefore to the Overberg’s bird populations.


  • Please report all dead cranes and other big birds linked to electrical infrastructure to the Overberg Crane Group or the Endangered Wildlife Trust: 0860 111 535 or email:
  • Please contact the OCG if you have any areas on your property or know of any other areas where Blue Crane power line collisions and electrocutions occur a lot.
  • Help the Overberg Crane Group make more power lines visible to big birds, or to act against proposed wind turbines in sensitive bird areas – by making a donation.


For the Overberg Crane Group, this threat is a high priority. In fact, the OCG was established in the 1990s due to the high number of Blue Crane poisonings.


Poisoning can be intentional, where birds like Blue Cranes are targeted because they’re considered a nuisance. Or poisoning could be accidental, where another species is targeted, or when poison is accidentally taken in while feeding. Many poisoning cases in South Africa are unintentional, where either poison bait is placed to catch other species (e.g. Helmeted Guineafowl) or where birds feed in an area where insecticides have been spread. For Cape Vultures, they could die if they ingest poison left at livestock carcasses. One incident of poisoning could kill anything between 50 to 500 birds, according to the IUCN. For the Overberg Crane Group, this threat is a high priority. In fact, the OCG was established in the 1990s due to high number of Blue Crane poisonings. Today the Crane Group works in partnership with the Endangered Wildlife Trust, and with CapeNature (the Western Cape’s conservation authority) to combat the misuse of agrochemicals so that wildlife poisoning is limited.



  • Report all suspected poisonings of Blue Cranes and other big birds to the OCG.
  • Agrochemicals should be used carefully, and the correct dosage and application should be strictly adhered to.
  • Help the Overberg Crane Group stop poisonings – by making a donation.


Due to their long legs and necks, Blue Cranes often get entangled in fences. Chicks prior to fledging also get caught up in fences when they climb through the fences when moving between camps.

Our partner Birdlife South Africa runs a Fence Mitigation Project to determine just how big the problem is in South Africa, and which bird species are killed through fence collisions. They encourage observers to submit sightings of birds killed in fences. Visit Birdlife SA for more.



  • Report any dead cranes found at fences – to the OCG or Birdlife SA.
  • Free any cranes caught in fences.
  • Help the Overberg Crane Group raise awareness with land users – by making a donation.


People will capture birds like Blue Cranes and Cape Vultures for different reasons. Blue Cranes are highly sought-after birds in the pet bird market and are collected to adorn gardens.


Chicks are removed from the wild to satisfy this demand. Blue Cranes, the chicks and eggs are often collected for food. As Blue Cranes are protected in the Western Cape Province, it’s illegal to remove cranes and crane eggs from the wild. Cape Vultures are sometimes used in the traditional health industry. The IUCN notes that hundreds of vultures are sold every year, with harvesting taking place for traditional uses. It’s believed that certain species could be extinct in around 50 years if the current rate of exploitation continues. Even the Secretary Bird is captured and traded – albeit in smaller numbers.



  • Don’t promote the trade in Blue Cranes and other birds by keeping adults or chicks in captivity. Those keeping Blue Cranes illegally will face serious fines.
  • Please report individuals who are keeping cranes in captivity.
  • Please also report the trade of other species for other purposes.
  • Help the Overberg Crane Group stop illegal capture – by making a donation.


Blue Cranes and other big birds hang around sheep/ostrich feeding areas – drawn there by seeds and insects – where they come into contact with bailing twine. These often become tangled around their legs.


The twine cuts off the circulation to the lower legs and eventually results in amputation. As cranes and other birds forage by walking through the landscape, an injury of this sort is often fatal depending on how much of the leg is amputated.



  • Please pick up any bailing twine lying around, especially at sheep/ostrich feed lots.
  • Please make sure you dispose of any bailing twine effectively.
  • Help the Overberg Crane Group raise awareness with land users – by making a donation.


  •    Chicks of Blue Cranes are often victim to drowning in water troughs.
  •    Nests are often destroyed during harvesting.
  •    Blue Cranes often compete with livestock at feed troughs, which make them a pest to the farmer.



  • Place a few concrete blocks or any other suitable material into water troughs so that chicks have steps to get out of the troughs.
  • Before harvesting, find crane nests and mark them clearly so that you don’t destroy them.
  • Loss of sheep fodder at feeding troughs can be avoided by placing a single strand of wire around the troughs to stop the cranes from getting in.
  • Help the Overberg Crane Group raise awareness with land users – by making a donation.