The Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus) is found all around Australia and is the biggest of the 8 species of Pelicans found worldwide.
Pelicans as a whole are big birds with a very large wingspan, large beaks and are very well known
One of the reason such a big bird can fly is that its skeleton is very light (10% of their weight).
Australian Pelicans are white in colour with black wingtips and black markings on their tail.
Behind their head and part way down their neck there is a "streak" of grey
Their bill and very large bill pouch are pink and is the longest beak/bill of any, of all the types of Pelicans in the world , whilst their legs and feet are blue-grey in colour.
They are so buoyant they cannot sink under water, though unlike most water birds they do not have a lot of water proof oil on their feathers etc so they can get wet and cold
Wingspan 2.5 meters to 3.4 meters.
Length 1.6 to 1.9meters.
Weight 4 to 6.8 kg up to 8.2 kg.
Australian Pelicans eyes are brown and white.
The female is slightly smaller than the male.
Pouched bill 40 to 47cm and can hold 9 to 13 litres of water.
They have 4 webbed toes.
There vocalisation is a chesty rumbling or deep growling.
In the wild they can live between 10 and 25 years.
LOCATION & HABITAT
On a world scale The Australian Pelican is found throughout Australia, except in the very dry middle (desert region), Papua New Guinea and parts of Indonesia (eg Sulawesi) and sometimes in New Zealand and some Pacific Islands close to Australia
In Australia itself, wherever there is water you can possibly find Pelicans, ranging from wetlands to swamps, rivers, estuaries, lakes (fresh and salt), coastlines, mudflats, lagoons etc.
They live in large flocks or colonies and will travel large distances to find suitable water, breeding grounds etc
Pelicans favourite food is fish.
They normally fish together "herding" the fish into a central position, and then plunge their bills into the water and capture a fish with a mouthful of water then "squeeze" the water out by pushing their bill against their chest region so they are left with just the fish in their bill pouch.
They will then turn the fish around in their bill pouch so it goes "longways" down their throat and then they swallow the fish whole with a "jerk" of their head.
There bills have a slight hook on the end and are serrated to help hold onto slippery fish.
They will feed from Humans, either stealing from fisherman or accepting handouts, and have been know to also eat small turtles, tadpoles, shrimp and other crustaceans
It is fantastic to see a Pelican take off, running across the water to build up speed and flapping its huge wings. Once in the air this big bird relies on thermals and soars to great heights and for long distances.
When it lands it is like an amphibious aeroplane landing on a watery runway, finally gilding to a stop with the help of its wings spread out acting like brakes
It has been reported that Australian pelicans have soared to a height of 3,000 meters (3 Kms)
and when flying in a flock often form a rough V formation
MATING, BREEDING & NESTS
Pelicans breed together in large colonies, at any time of the year depending on conditions like rainfall
A complex courting dance by males competing for females occur, with the winning male and his female going off to their nest site.
The nest usually a grass, twig and feather lined scrape in the ground is prepared by the female
1 to 3 eggs are then laid in the next week. Both parents help out sitting on the nest, with the eggs hatching after 32 to 37 days. The young are born naked and blind
At first they are feed regurgitated food obtained by thrusting their bills down the parent's gullet.
After a month or so the young chick can leave the nest and join a "creche" of other young pelicans where they are cared for the next couple of months, until they learn to fly and become independent
The biggest problems for Pelicans is man and his fishing hooks, and lines, as their pouches can be easily torn by sharp fishing hooks