Australian Pelican – enormous bill and 13 litres pouch

Australian Pelican

The Australian Pelican is a large waterbird and one of the seven species of pelicans in the world. They are mostly white with black primary feathers on their wings. The Australian Pelican is known for its enormous pale pink bill, even by pelican standards, and males are generally larger than females.

These birds can be found throughout Australia, primarily along the coasts, in lagoons, bays, and estuarine waters. They often roost on sandbanks or float on the water, occasionally dipping their oversized bill in search of fish. Their diet consists mostly of fish, but they may also consume small turtles, tadpoles, shrimps, and other crustaceans.

For breeding, Australian Pelicans often go to flooded salt lakes after monsoonal rain. When the lakes dry out, they return to their normal habitat, which is usually wetlands.

They tend to gather in secluded places in groups of up to 40,000 individuals during mating season, when their pink coloration becomes more pronounced. Australian Pelicans prefer large expanses of open water without too much vegetation.

Australian Pelican Bill

Australian Pelican bill is such a distinctive organ that is worth mentioning. 

The bill’s main purpose is to locate fish underwater. To catch fish,  they plunge their bill underwater and use their pouches as nets. Then, the water is emptied, and the fish is manoeuvred with its head pointing pelican’s throat and swallowed.

The bill measures 49 centimetres and is the largest out of all birds in the world.

Interestingly, the pouch can hold up to 13 litres of water. Amazing!

Australian Pelican Lifespan

Australian Pelican is able to breed at the age of 2 -3 years. 

They live between 10 to 25 years.

During our trips, we found pelicans in all states and territories in Australia. They are very common.

The funny way we found them in Bribie Island as they really like to sit on big street lamps that are located on the Bribie Island bridge.

Some interesting facts about Australian Pelicans:

  • Australian Pelicans are the largest waterbird in Australia, with a wingspan of up to 2.5 metres.
  • Pelicans are known for their distinctive way of catching fish by using their pouches as nets.
  • The Australian Pelican is the only pelican species found in Australia, but there are seven species of pelicans found worldwide.
  • During breeding season, their bill and throat turn a bright shade of pink.
  • Australian Pelicans are found throughout the country, from coastal areas to inland waterways.
  • They can live for up to 25 years and start breeding at around 2-3 years of age.
  • Pelicans often roost on sandbanks or float on the water with their wings spread to dry.
  • They have been known to steal fish from fishing nets or steal scraps from fishermen’s hands.
  • In some Indigenous cultures, the pelican is considered a sacred bird and features in Dreamtime stories.

Where spotted: Port Douglas, Bribie Island (and many other places)

Australian Pelican – more information

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