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Australian Pelican

Appearance

The Australian Pelican is white with black tips on their wings and tail. Behind their head to half way down their neck they have a streak of grey. Their bill and bill pouch are pink and they have the longest beak/bill of all the pelicans in the world, they have blue-grey legs and feet. Unlike most water birds however they do not have a lot of waterproof oil on their feathers, this means that they can get cold and wet.

The Australian Pelican usually weighs between 4 and 7kgs (8.8-15.4lbs). Their length is between 1.6 to 1.9m (5.2-6.2ft), with a wingspan of between 2.5 and 3.4 metres (8.2-11.1ft). The female Australian Pelican is a little bit smaller than the male.

They can hold between 9 and 13 litres (2.3-3.4 US gal) of water in their bill, and they have 4 webbed toes.

Diet

The Australian Pelicans diet mainly consists of fish both native and introduced, however they also eat crustaceans, birds, insects, reptiles and amphibians.

They typically catch fish by expanding their throat pouch, but once they have caught the fish they have to drain the pouch above the surface. This can take them about a minute to do and sometimes in that time other seabirds can come along and steal the fish.

They will eat the fish whole and jerk their head to get the fish to go down. Their bills have a small hook on the end and are serrated which helps them to hold on to the slippery fish.

pelican

Scientific Name

Pelecanus conspicillatus

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Height

20cm (8in)

Weight

4-7kg (8.8-15.4lb)

Wingpsan

47-63cm (19-25in)

Lifespan

10-25 years

Diet

Carnivorous

Range

Australian Pelicans are found around most of Australia's coastline, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, parts of Indonesia and sometimes in New Zealand and some of the Pacific Islands which are close to Australia.

Habitat

Usually in Australia wherever you find water you will possibly be able to find Pelicans. This includes wetlands, lakes, coastlines, swamps, rivers and estuaries. The Pelicans live in large colonies and they will travel a long way to get to a place that has suitable water and breeding areas.

Reproduction

Australian Pelicans live and breed together in large colonies. They are able to breed at any time of the year but this is usually dependent on conditions like rainfall.

The Pelicans prepare a nest using items such as grasses, twigs and feathers which are laid down where they have scraped out the ground. The Pelicans perform a courting dance with the males trying to win the attention of the female, then the winning male and female will go to the nest site. The female will then in the next week lay 1-3 eggs in the nest. These eggs are coloured white. The eggs will then hatch in about 32 to 37 days, and both the male and female help to sit on the eggs to hatch them.

When the young pelicans are born they are featherless and blind. They get their food by putting their bills down their parents bill and eating the regurgitated food. Usually after one month the chick can leave the nest and join the other baby chicks, they are then cared for by the adults for another couple of months until they learn to fly.

Sexual maturity is achieved at two to three years of age.

Behavior

Australian pelicans fly mostly on thermal currents. They can fly at up to 3,000m (9,843ft) high.

Adult pelicans have very few predators. Chicks are preyed upon by dogs and Australian ravens.

Quick facts

The reason that the pelican can fly is because its skeleton is very light. It only accounts for an average of 10% of their whole body weight.

The Australian pelican has the largest bill of any bird on the planet.

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