The Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus) is a mighty animal. Amongst the heaviest flying birds in the world – a full-grown male can weigh more than 10 kg – Australian Pelicans are native to Australia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and East Timor. Although evolved from seabirds, Pelicans mostly reside on rivers, coastal inlets and lakes of the interior. In fact, massive colonies of up to 100,000 birds are known to congregate occasionally on arid inland lakes such as Lake Eyre South and Lake Goolangirie after heavy rains and floods, only to disperse again over the vast continent in search of new food sources.
How Pelicans exactly find their way between the coast and the interior is an unsolved mystery, however, in order to travel these long distances birds this big need to feed on a substantial amount of fish. Equipped with a long bill and a stretchy pouch that can hold up to 10 litres of water, Pelicans can therefore be seen fishing almost continuously. Although most individuals are perfectly able to catch their own food, they have learned to adapt quickly in order to exploit alternative food sources, from fish supplied by humans to garbage – for that reason it’s hardly surprising Australian Pelicans are a common sight around wharfs and harbours of coastal Australian towns.
There are numerous good places to spot Pelicans in Western Australia. One of them is Kalbarri, where near the mouth of the mighty Murchison river groups of Pelicans are fed almost daily in order to attract tourists. But if you would like to observe those birds hunting in their natural habitat – and be woken up by their groans and grunts – the lovely camp right on the riverbank of the Murchison House Station is the place to go. No crowds, real bush – 100% Safari!