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The Australian pelican
is the biggest of the pelicans with sizes up to 1.8 metres,
weighing up to 7 kg (they have very light skeletons - only
about 10 per cent of their body weight).
It has a wingspan of up
to 3.4 metres and a lifespan of 25 years!
The males are bigger than females.
The Australian pelicans are related to the Black-faced
cormorant and the frigate birds.
They can be found everywhere around Australia as well as
Papua New Guinea, western Indonesia and sometimes even as
far as New Zealand and the Pacific Island.
Pelicans can fly very high and very low. They can skim
the surface of the water with a long, controlled gliding
motion and they can rise to altitudes of 3'000 metres.
They can ride the thermals and reach a speed of 56 km/h and
they can stay aloft for 24 hours.
Their pouched bill is 40 to 47 cm long and can hold
9 to 13 litres of water. According to the Guinness Book
of Records, they are the biggest beaks in the bird kingdom.
They eat fish, crustaceans, shrimps, turtles, tadpoles and
They are known to poach food from other birds - chasing them
until they drop their prey. In hard seasons they have been
known to drown and eat seagulls.
Pelicans do not have a crop. Their food goes down the gullet
and into the stomach. Young pelicans must reach down the
throat of their parents to feed.
Their vocalisation is a chesty rumbling or deep growling.
Pelican chicks communicate with their mothers while still
in the egg. They can communicate as to whether they are
too hot or cold.
They also listen to their parents from the egg - so when
they emerge, they have no trouble identifying their parents.
Pelicans are found on all continents except Antarctica.
Groups of pelicans are known as pods, scoops or squadrons.
Pelicans are ancient.
Pelican fossils have been dated at 40 million years.