Our pelicans are located near the Rotunda. You can see them being fed every day at 2.30pm.
Did you know...
- There are 7 other species of pelican in the world.
- The Australian Pelican has the largest bill in the avian world. The longest one on record is 49cm long.
- A pelican was photographed in St. James Park in London swallowing a live pigeon.
- Dating back to medieval Europe, the pelican is used as a symbol for the Eucharist (the Last Supper) and also Jesus. There was a legend that a mother pelican had nothing for her young during a famine and therefore drew her own blood for them to feed on. The mother pelican symbolises Jesus who sacrificed himself for his followers.
Geographical Region: Australasia
We have a 7 Australian Pelicans in our exhibit and quite often have visitors that come for a free feed! Pelican feeding times are at 2:30pm daily.
Distribution & Habitat
The Australian pelican is found in Australia, both inland and on coastal areas. They can also found in New Guinea, Fiji, parts of Indonesia and New Zealand.
Australian Pelicans prefer vast expanses of water with not too much vegetation in the water. Water can be fresh, saline or brackish.
Lake Eyre is normally barren but can fill up with water when there are substantial rainfalls. When this happens, the vast majority of pelicans make there way to Lake Eyre.
Description & Behaviour
The Australian Pelican ranges from 1.6-1.8m long, with a wingspan of 2.3-2.5m. They are mainly white with some black along their primary wings. Their bill is pinkish and turns red when attracting a mate.
They have the largest bill out of all the birds in the world.
Breeding times vary throughout Australia and usually depend on rainfall. Drought, flooding and water levels can affect the timing and duration of any breeding.
Breeding starts off with a courtship ritual where a female will lead 2-8 males around on land, water and in the air. Eventually she will be accompanied by only one male who drives the other males off.
Nests start off as a scrap in the ground and is progressively lined with grass, seaweed and sticks. Colonies of nesting birds can be anywhere between very small and very large. 2-3 dull white chalky eggs are laid.
The pelican’s diet mainly consists of fish but they do also eat crustaceans and amphibians.
When in groups, they may swim together and circle fish, before plunging their heads in unison to catch their prey. Single birds will swim stealthily up to a fish with their head low so they catch it quickly.
Threats & Conservation
Zoos SA is involved with a long term study of a colony of pelicans at Outer Harbour.