Australian Pelican
Pelecanus conspicillatus
Population size
Life Span
15-25 years
Top speed
km/h mph 
kg lbs 
m ft 
m ft 

Australian pelicans (Pelecanus conspicillatus) are large waterbirds that have the longest bill of any living bird. They feed by plunge-diving and work in groups to drive fish to shallower water, where they stick their sensitive bills in to snatch their prey. In parts of South Australia, these majestic birds are known by their Ngaarrindjeri name, nori.


The Australian pelican is predominantly white in color. There is a white panel on the upper-wing and a white-V on the rump set against black along the primaries. During courtship, the orbital skin and distal quarter of the bill are orange-colored with the pouch variously turning dark blue, pink, and scarlet. The non-breeding adult has its bill and eye-ring a pale yellow and the pouch is a pale pinkish. Juvenile birds are similar to the adults, but with black replaced with brown and the white patch on the upper wing reduced.



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 Pelican habitat map

Climate zones

Australian Pelican habitat map
Australian Pelican
Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

Habits and Lifestyle

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.

Group name
Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

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.

Mating Habits

any time of the year
32-37 days
4 months
chick, nestling
1-3 eggs

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.


Population threats

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.

Population number

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.

Ecological niche

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.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The Australian pelicans have an extremely light skeleton, which weighs only 10% out of the whole weight of their body and allows them to fly.
  • The beak of Australian pelican is the largest of all birds. It’s so large and spacious, that can hold from 9 to 13 liters of water.
  • In spite of being used for feeding, the pouch can serve as a cooling “device”: in order to cool off, pelicans just swing the pouch.
  • These pelicans can soar at height of up to 3 kilometers.
  • They are able to eat four pounds of fish a day.
  • When catching fish, they take huge amount of water into the pouch. Then they move the head forward, pour out the water and swallow the fish.

Coloring Pages


1. Australian Pelican Wikipedia article -
2. Australian Pelican on The IUCN Red List site -
3. Xeno-canto bird call -

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