Feathered Facts

The Australian pelican - Pelecanus conspicillatus

The biggest of the pelicans



Size: 1.6 to 1.8 metres
Weight: up to 7 kg
Wingspan: up to 3.4 metres
Lifespan: 25 years

Habitat: Lakes, swamps, rivers, estuaries, seashore.

Found: Everywhere  around Australia as well as Papua New Guinea,
western Indonesia and sometimes even as far as New Zealand and the Pacific Island.

Flight: Pelicans fly very high and very low. They can skim the surface
of the water with a long, controlled gliding motion and they can rise
to altitudes of 3000 metres. The can ride the thermals and reach a
speed of 56km/h. The can stay aloft for 24 hours.

Relatives: Black-faced cormorant, frigate birds

Food: Fish, crustaceans, shrimps, turtles, tadpoles and frogs. They
are known to poach food from other birds - chasing them until they drop their prey. In hard seasons they have been known to drown and eat seagulls. Pelicans do not have a crop. Their food goes down the gullet and into the stomach. Young pelicans must reach down the throat of their parents to feed.

Identification: white feathers, and black feathers, big beak, big 
body.  Males are bigger than females. 

Pouched bill: 40 to 47cm and can hold 9 to 13 litres of water.
According to the Guinness Book of Records, they are the biggest beaks in the bird kingdom.

Sounds: Their vocalisation is a chesty rumbling or deep growling.

Skeletal structure: They have very light skeletons - only about 10 per cent of their body weight


Pelican miscellanea:

The birds have 4 webbed toes.

Pelicans are found on all continents except Antarctic.

Groups of pelicans are known as pods, scoops or squadrons.
Pelicans are ancient.
Pelican fossils have been dated at 40 million years.

Pelican chicks communicate with their mothers while still in the egg.
They can communicate as to whether they are too hot or cold.

They also listen to their parents from the egg - so when they emerge, they have no trouble identifying their parents.