The Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus) is found both inland and in the coastal waters of Australia and New Guinea, Fiji, parts of Indonesia and also in New Zealand.

There are seven species of pelicans in the world, all being similar in shape and with one exception, are primarily white in colour. The Australian Pelican is a fairly large white feathered bird with black wings and a pink bill. Males birds are larger than females. The most characteristic feature of pelicans is their elongated bill and large throat pouch. The pelican bill is considered the longest bill of any living bird

During the courtship , the bill and pouch of the birds changes colour dramatically. The forward part of the pouch becomes bright salmon pink, while the skin of the pouch in the throat region turns yellow. Parts of the top and base of the bill change to a light cobalt blue, and an almost blue/black diagonal strip appears from the base to the tip. This change in colour usually subsides by the time incubation starts. The non-breeding adult has its bill and eye-ring a pale yellow, whilst the pouch is a pale pinkish.

The pelican diet mainly consists of fish, but will scavenge for scraps when the opportunity arises. Whilst they feed in groups, they will sometimes forage in solitary. They are known to eat a variety of fish including introduced species such as European carp and perch. The Australian pelican also feed on insects and aquatic crustaceans and have been known to eat other birds, including eggs and the young birds. In certain places, they have established an association with humans, waiting to be fed by them.

Fishing with the pelican at Karumba
Fishing with the pelican at Karumba, Queensland

Photos © Ausemade PL


  • Scientific classification
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Pelecaniformes
  • Family: Pelecanidae
  • Genus: Pelecanus
  • Species: P. conspicillatus
  • Binomial name: Pelecanus conspicillatus