Brolgas hatch at Harston dairy farm

By Geoff Adams

A pair of brolgas have successfully hatched chicks on a dairy farm at Harston, near Tatura.

Dairy farmers Duncan and Emily Crawford, who are also members of Harston Landcare Group, recently sighted the brolgas with eggs on a nest in a wetland area on their farm with natural run-off and a low drainage point.

The Crawfords have been keenly watching the pair ever since, and were very excited to observe the chicks hatch last week.

“We often see brolgas on our farm, sometimes a pair and even up to six or eight at a time,” Mr Crawford said.

“It’s very pleasing to see them successfully hatch chicks as we’ve never seen it on our farm before. Hopefully they can make it to adulthood.”

The Crawfords are now trying to manage their drainage and irrigation re-use to maintain water levels at a height that protects the nest from predators and maintains the wetland habitat.

The brolga is one of Australia’s largest flying birds, measuring anywhere between 1m to 1.3m in height. Their wing span ranges from 1.7m to 2.4m.

Brolgas are rare in southern Australian states and are listed as a threatened species. Brolgas do not migrate and have been known to use the same nesting site for up to 20 years.

The red fox is a common predator for the brolga, often eating eggs and young chicks.

Harston Landcare Group president Nick O’Halloran has been liaising with the Crawfords, Greater Shepparton City Council and Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority to assist the brolgas' chances of successfully raising the chicks.

“The council erected temporary road hazard signs to warn motorists, as the birds forage on the road and roadside,” Mr O’Halloran said.

“We are also investigating longer-term plans with the Goulburn Broken CMA for funding to better protect the location.”

The Crawfords have undertaken vermin control, with local licensed shooters Danny Stammers and Andrew Scutchings culling foxes on the property in recent months.

Cats are also an issue for native wildlife, killing millions of native Australian animals every year.

“We urge local landholders to undertake feral cat and fox control to assist native wildlife protection,” Mr O’Halloran said.

He is also asking local landholders to keep an eye out for the wildlife they have on their properties, and learn what they can do to make their properties more wildlife friendly.

“These brolgas hatching chicks on a working dairy farm are a great example of how biodiversity and farming can co-exist successfully, with knowledgeable landholders and support from agencies,” he said.

“We’re hoping these chicks can grow so the next generation can also see these amazing birds flying around the district.”