Australian Pelican

These birds have been recorded to fly at 3000 meters (9850 ft)

JJ Harrison

An iconic bird species synonymous with Australia’s diverse aquatic landscapes, including Tasmania, and extends its range into parts of New Guinea. Australian Pelicans are among the most easily recognized water birds, renowned for their large size, massive bill, and expansive throat pouch.

These pelicans are highly sociable, frequently seen in flocks that can number in the hundreds, which is a testament to their gregarious nature. They are as much at home in the vast inland lakes and rivers as they are along the coastal waters, estuaries, and swamps. Their preference for open-water habitats that are not overly vegetated allows them easy access to their prey, primarily fish. However, their diet is opportunistic and can include amphibians and sometimes even smaller birds.

Australian Pelicans are well adapted for aquatic life. Their large webbed feet enable them to move smoothly through water, and they use their expansive wingspan, which can reach up to 2.5 meters (8 feet), for efficient flight, including long-distance travel. This capacity for flight is crucial during periods of drought when pelicans may undertake extensive migrations in search of water and food.

Breeding can occur at any time of the year, triggered by high water levels and abundant food. Australian Pelicans do not build elaborate nests; rather, they scrape together a simple depression on the ground on isolated islands or secluded coastal areas to lay their eggs. Such locations provide some safety from terrestrial predators. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs and caring for the chicks, which are born blind and helpless.

One of the most remarkable features of the Australian Pelican is its bill, the longest of any bird, which can measure up to 0.5 meters (18 inches) in length. The bill is not only a tool for catching fish but also serves as a means of thermoregulation, with blood vessels expanding or contracting to release or retain heat.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Australia
2016
Breeding
East Timor
2016
Non-Breeding
Fiji
2016
Non-Breeding
Indonesia
2016
Nauru
2016
Vagrant
New Caledonia
2016
Vagrant
New Zealand
2016
Vagrant
Palau
2016
Vagrant
Papua New Guinea
2016
Solomon Islands
2016
Vanuatu
2016
Vagrant

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd / Flock

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No