Australian pelican is a species of water birds. They are large in size, having the longest beak among all pelicans. Males are slightly bigger than females. These pelicans have four webbed toes on each foot. The Australian pelican has asmall hook at the tip of its beak, which has jagged edges and helps the bird hold down slippery fish. These pelicans have quite a delicate beak: the lower jaw has 2 feeble and thin articulated bones, holding the pouch. The Australian pelicans can easily get wet and cold because of not having enough water-repellent oil on their feathers. These birds are white in color, having black tips on tail and wings. The beak and pouch are pink while feet and legs are blue-gray. In addition, they have a gray colored stripe behind their head, stretching half way down the neck.
The main habitat of Australian pelicans is sandy coastlines, spits and sandbars. Generally, they live in areas with an abundance of fish. They are found in close proximity to interior rivers, coastlines, lakes and marshes. These pelicans are widely distributed along the shore and inland of Fiji, Australia and New Guinea. Also, they can occasionally be found in New Zealand and Indonesia.
Australian pelicans are diurnal animals. They are very sociable, flying together in groups. To breed, the pelicans congregate intolarge colonies, sometimes containing up to 40,000 birds. During courtship displays and in everyday life, they communicate by means of visual signals, using their beaks, necks, wings and pouches. They fly long distances, looking for breeding sites and source of water. They are able to remain in the air for over 24 hours. The pelicans fly slowly, sometimes gliding in thermals in order to save energy. In addition, being waders, they form ‘V’ when flying in flocks.
The pelicans are carnivores (piscivores), they generally feed upon fish, but their diet includes also crustaceans, tadpoles, shrimp and, sometimes, turtles. In order to drink, they open their beaks and collect rainwater.
These birds are seasonally monogamous, meaning that they mate once in every mating season. In order to breed, the pelicans usually congregate into large colonies. Breeding can occur at any season, if there are suitable conditions. During courting dance, a male tries to attract the attention of a female, after which the winning male and the female go to their nesting site. Then, the female lays 1-3 eggs on average; the eggs are chalky-white in color. Males, along with females, participate in incubation process, which lasts 32-37 days. Hatched chicks are born blind and naked. After 28 days, they leave the nest to join a group, consisting of up to 100 chicks. At the age of nearly 4 months, when parents stop feeding them, the young become independent. They reach sexual maturity at the age of 3-4 years.
The Australian pelicans are widely distributed over the area of their habitat. The species is not globally threatened; however, dangers are present. Sometimes the Australian pelicans become entangled in fishing tackles, left on the shore. In addition, fishing hooks are sharp and can tear the pouch of a pelican.
In the IUCN Red List, the Australian pelican is classified as a species of Least Concern (LC). The overall number of population is stable but unknown. However, it’s considered that there are around 300,000-500,000 pelicans only in Australia.
Australian pelicans play important role in the ecosystem of their habitat. They disperse plant species. They feed upon fish that eat plants. And then, when pelicans move, they transplant the plant propagules from one place to another by means of their feces. Thus, the Australian pelicans contribute to plant species’ movement, recolonizing wetlands with little vegetation. However, the dispersal can lead to appearance and spread of exotic species of plants.