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Australian Pelican

Ginormous gulper!

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Pelicans scoop live fish, turtles and waterbirds into their massive bill, squeeze the water out and…gulp!

Description: Australian Pelicans are mostly white with black feathers along their back, tail and wings. They are large birds and males are bigger than females. They have a long bill with a big throat pouch.

Diet: Australian Pelicans are carnivores. They eat mainly fish but they also eat other animals that live in the water like turtles, crustaceans and other waterbirds. Their highly sensitive bill helps locate fish, snapping around the prey when they sense movement. Their throat pouch can hold up to 13 litres of water. It is used like a net, collecting any prey that is inside. The pelican then empties the water and swallows the prey whole.

In the Wild: Pelicans can fly for extended periods, gliding on the air to reach higher altitudes. They can travel long distances without much effort.

Pelicans go through an extended courtship ritual where males follow a female around. During this time the males swing their open bills to get the female’s attention, fight each other and ripple their throat pouches. One by one the males drop away until only one is left and they mate.

Threats: Pelicans can become tangled in discarded fishing line or choke on plastic bags and other litter thrown in waterways. If you go fishing, make sure you take all your rubbish with you.

Did you know?

During the breeding season, the pelican’s bill and pouch change colour. Part of the pouch turns pink while the other part turns yellow. Parts of the bill turn blue. The change lasts for a short period of time.

Main Lake
Other name
Boodalang (Nyoongar)
Scientific name
Pelecanus conspicillatus
Conservation status
Least Concern
Body length
1.6–1.9 m
4-8 kg
35 days
Number of eggs
Australia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia
Freshwater, estuarine and marine wetlands and waterways