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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Facts About The Amaze-wing Australian Pelican

Australian pelican facts about the large waterbirds.

Australian pelicans are native to Australia and are found near coastal water bodies, lakes swamps, and shorelines. They are also seen in regions of Papua New Guinea, and New Zealand, and some Pacific Islands. There are a total of eight types of pelicans namely, the American white pelican, brown pelican, Australian pelican, great white pelican, dalmatian pelican, Peruvian pelican, pink backed pelican, and spot-billed pelican.

Pelicans play an important role in the ecosystem of their habitat. They are capable of flying long distances despite being big birds. They travel long distances with minimum effort.  This becomes essential for them to find breeding sites and a source of water to drink from. Although they are the least concerned species, rapid urbanization, global warming, loss of habitat pose a great threat to the survival of Australian pelicans as well as other animals. In this article, you will find some interesting facts and information related to the Australian pelicans. If you liked this article then check out the Atlantic puffin and the corncrake.

Australian Pelican Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an Australian Pelican?

The Australian pelican is a type of bird. They are large birds with a big pouch and a big bill.

What class of animal does an Australian Pelican belong to?

The Australian pelican is a bird that belongs to the Aves class of species and Pelecanidae family.

How many Australian Pelicans are there in the world?

There are estimated to be around 300,000 to 500,000 Australian pelicans and they are widespread across Australia. There are an estimated 300,000 brown pelicans and 350,000 Peruvian pelicans.

Where does an Australian Pelican live?

The Australian pelican is seen living in wetlands, coastal waters, swamps, and lakes. They are known to travel long distances despite the fact that they are relatively large birds and make nests underground for their young. They can be occasionally seen in New Zealand and Indonesia.

What is an Australian Pelican's habitat?

The Australian pelican's habitat is primarily near water bodies since that is where they get their main source of food. They prefer warm climates. They reside in any area where there is a large number of fish. They can survive in most climate conditions except in Antarctica.

Who do Australian Pelicans live with?

They are comfortable by themselves, however, they are not always alone. They like to congregate on islands whenever possible. They also come together for breeding where they breed in large colonies. They don't mind having other bird species around, like flamingos or cormorants.

How long does an Australian Pelican live?

The Australian pelican's lifespan is 15 to 25 years. The Australian pelican that lived the longest in captivity was recorded to be 50 years old. This depends on various factors like their diet and habitat as well.

How do they reproduce?

Both males and females perform pouch rippling in which they clap their bills shut several times a second and their pouch ripples. During courtship, the bill and pouch of the birds change color dramatically. Mating lasts for six to 22 seconds. They mate several times over several hours. They are monogamous in nature.  While the female pelican sits on the nest site, the male will perform a ritualistic display. Then the winning male and female go to the nest site.  Females are the ones who lead males to a potential nest site which is usually dug up using her bill. The female will then lay eggs in the next week. The eggs are laid and placed in a position making them difficult to spot to protect them from possible predators and young chicks are dependent on their parents for food and shelter until they develop and grow to be able to live independently.

What is their conservation status?

The IUCN red list of species has classified the Australian pelican under the Least Concern category.

Australian Pelican Fun Facts

What do Australian Pelicans look like?

They are usually seen sitting with their large white bodies, unique beak, and their pouch.

At first sight, they would appear chalky white. Pelican wingspan is from 7.5 - 8.ft (2.3 to 2.5m) and can weigh from 8 -14 lbs (4 - 7kg). The primary wing feathers are all black.  Pelicans wings are large in size and clearly visible during flight.  The lower jaw has two feebles and thin articulated bones, holding the pouch. The throat pouch is bright salmon pink, while the skin of the pouch in the throat area changes to metallic yellow. The beak can also feature a dark blue stripe. They have webbed toes with blue-gray feet, a short tail at the end of their body with black markings which help them glide through the water. Many of them develop knobs on the upper part of their bills.  

How cute are they?

They are big birds however they are aesthetically pleasing to look at from a distance. These birds can be aggressive if they are approached closely, fearing threats of any kind. Hence it's best to maintain a distance if you ever encounter this species of bird.

How do they communicate?

The pelican birds can perceive auditory, visual, tactile, and chemical stimuli. Adult pelicans make use of calls to communicate however this is extremely rare. Calls usually consist of blowing, groaning, bill clattering, and hissing. The young birds are more vocal in nature and beg for food with loud calls so their parents can hear. Apart from this they also make use of visual cues that they make with their wings, necks, bills, and pouches. They are sensitive and this helps them locate fish in murky water.

How big is an Australian Pelican?

The Australian pelican is 19.5 inches (49cm) tall.

How fast can an Australian Pelican fly?

Australian pelicans cannot stay in flight for long hours however they can stay at one stretch for 24 hours covering long distances. Australian pelicans have moderately good speeds and can fly up to 9843 feet (3000m) above sea level. The average speed calculated for pelicans is 30mph. They are sociable beings and are seen flying together in groups.

How much does an Australian Pelican weigh?

Australian pelicans can weigh up to 8.8-28.7lbs (4-13kg) some weigh even more than the estimated weight. Their beaks can hold up to three gallons of water. The biggest species of pelicans are the Dalmatian pelicans who weigh around 20lbs and are large majestic birds.

What are their male and female names of the species?

Male and females are not too different in appearance however they differ in size. Males are bigger compared to females.

What would you call a baby Australian Pelican?

An Australian pelican baby is referred to as a chick. The hatched chicks are born blind and naked and develop feathers and body parts over a period of time, until then they rely completely on their parents. The first hatchling is always larger and is fed most food by the parents. Baby chicks are never seen because female birds usually build nests on the outskirts to protect them from possible predators. Chicks, once grown, leave their nest and join other baby chicks and are cared for by adults.

What do they eat?

They are carnivores and usually feed alone. They work in groups to drive fish to shallower water so they can procure their prey easily. The Australian pelican's diet consists of slippery fish held in by their beaks. Once something is caught, a pelican draws its pouch to its breast. This empties the water by pressing the bill which drains the water and allows for the food to go in. In order to drink, they open their beaks and collect rainwater with its largest bill. They have the capability to take up huge amounts of water into the pouch.

Are they dangerous?

Pelicans do have the capacity to attack hence it's safe to look at them from a distance. They are not the most dangerous of bird species however they can cause harm. Pelican predators in Australia include Australian ravens. Fishing hooks are sharp and can tear the pouch of pelicans.

Would they make a good pet?

No, they are innately wild animals hence they cannot be kept or adopted as pets. They thrive best in their natural habitat. Keeping them restricted would affect their lifespan, health, and diet.

Did you know...

Europe was home to 10,000 breeding pairs of Pelicans.  Pelicans have a population ranging from 10,000 to 13,900.

Pelican birds played a major role in medieval and Renaissance Christian art, primarily due to a myth that these animals stabbed themselves in the breast to feed their chicks.

The Australian Pelican's survival techniques

Australian pelican adaptations include their large beak and size which helps them survive easily. In case of any danger, they make use of the flight approach. Adult pelicans make use of calls to communicate however this is extremely rare. Calls usually consist of blowing, groaning, bill clattering, and hissing.

Comparisons to different Pelicans

All pelican species belong to the same family. However, they differ in size, for example, the brown pelicans are smaller than Australian pelicans. Similarly, although they belong to the same family they have slightly varied calls for each other. Their population densities also vary depending on the particular type of pelican species they are as discussed in the previous sections of this article hence making some species more vulnerable than others. They are all large birds with unique bills and other physical features which give them their identity. Next time you are in a region native to any species of pelicans make sure to keep a keen eye and try to figure which type of pelican you just encountered.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds including the pelican and the puffin.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our Australian Pelican coloring pages.

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