Australian pelican
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The Australian pelican (''Pelecanus conspicillatus'') is a large waterbird in the family
Pelecanidae The Pelecanidae is a family of pelecaniformes, pelecaniform birds within the Pelecani that contains two genera: the extinct ''Eopelecanus'' and the extant ''Pelecanus''. The family was monotypy, monotypic until the description of ''Eopelecanus'' ...
, widespread on the inland and coastal waters of
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands. With an area of , Australia is the largest country by ...
and
New Guinea New Guinea (; Hiri Motu: ''Niu Gini''; id, Papua, or , historically ) is the List of islands by area, world's second-largest island with an area of . Located in Oceania in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, the island is separated from Mainlan ...
, also in
Fiji Fiji ( , ,; fj, Viti, ; Fiji Hindi: फ़िजी, ''Fijī''), officially the Republic of Fiji, is an island country in Melanesia, part of Oceania in the South Pacific Ocean. It lies about north-northeast of New Zealand. Fiji consists ...
, parts of
Indonesia Indonesia, officially the Republic of Indonesia, is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania between the Indian Ocean, Indian and Pacific Ocean, Pacific oceans. It consists of over List of islands of Indonesia, 17,000 islands, including Sumatr ...
and as a
vagrant Vagrancy is the condition of homelessness Homelessness or houselessness – also known as a state of being unhoused or unsheltered – is the condition of lacking stable, safe, and adequate housing. People can be categorized as home ...
in New Zealand. It is a predominantly white bird with black wings and a pink bill. It has been recorded as having the longest bill of any living bird. It mainly eats fish, but will also consume birds and scavenge for scraps if the opportunity arises.


Taxonomy

The Australian pelican was first described by Dutch naturalist
Coenraad Jacob Temminck Coenraad Jacob Temminck (; 31 March 1778 – 30 January 1858) was a Dutch people, Dutch Aristocracy (class), aristocrat, Zoology, zoologist and museum director. Biography Coenraad Jacob Temminck was born on 31 March 1778 in Amsterdam in the Dut ...
in 1824. Its specific epithet is derived from the Latin verb conspicere, meaning 'to behold', and refers to the 'spectacled' appearance created by its conspicuous eye markings.


Description

The Australian pelican is medium-sized by pelican standards, with a wingspan of . Weight can range from , although most of these pelicans weigh between .''CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses'' by John B. Dunning Jr. (Editor). CRC Press (1992), The average weight of four unsexed Australian pelicans was , making this the second heaviest Australian flying bird species on average, after the
brolga The brolga (''Antigone rubicunda''), formerly known as the native companion, is a bird in the crane (bird), crane family. It has also been given the name Australian crane, a term coined in 1865 by well-known ornithology, ornithologist John Gould ...
, although the male of the more
sexually dimorphic Sexual dimorphism is the condition where the sexes of the same animal and/or plant species exhibit different Morphology (biology), morphological characteristics, particularly characteristics not directly involved in reproduction. The conditio ...
Australian bustard The Australian bustard (''Ardeotis australis'') is a large ground dwelling bird which is common in grassland, woodland and open agricultural country across northern Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a so ...
weighs a bit more at average and maximum weights (both birds are, of course, much smaller than the
cassowary Cassowaries ( tpi, muruk, id, kasuari) are flightless birds of the genus ''Casuarius'' in the order Casuariiformes. They are classified as ratites (flightless birds without a keel (bird anatomy), keel on their sternum bones) and are native t ...
and
emu The emu () (''Dromaius novaehollandiae'') is the second-tallest living bird after its ratite A ratite () is any of a diverse group of flightless bird, flightless, large, long-necked, and long-legged birds of the infraclass Palaeognathae. ...
). The pale, pinkish bill is enormous, even by pelican standards, and is the largest bill in the avian world. The record-sized bill was long. Females are slightly smaller with a notably smaller bill, which can measure as small as at maturity. The total length is boosted by the bill to , which makes it rank alongside the
Dalmatian pelican The Dalmatian pelican (''Pelecanus crispus'') is the largest member of the pelican Pelicans (genus ''Pelecanus'') are a genus of large water birds that make up the family (biology), family Pelecanidae. They are characterized by a long beak ...
as the longest of pelicans. Overall, the Australian pelican is predominantly white in colour. There is a white panel on the upper-wing and a white-V on the rump set against black along the primaries. During courtship, the orbital skin and distal quarter of the bill are orange-coloured with the pouch variously turning dark blue, pink and scarlet. The non-breeding adult has its bill and eye-ring a pale yellow and the pouch is a pale pinkish. Juvenile birds are similar to the adults, but with black replaced with brown and the white patch on upper wing reduced. Overall, their appearance is somewhat similar to several other pelicans, though the species is
allopatric Allopatric speciation () – also referred to as geographic speciation, vicariant speciation, or its earlier name the dumbbell model – is a mode of speciation that occurs when biological populations become geographically isolated from ...
.


Distribution and habitat

This species can occur in large expanses of mainland Australia and
Tasmania ) , nickname = , image_map = Tasmania in Australia.svg , map_caption = Location of Tasmania in AustraliaCoordinates: , subdivision_type = Country , subdi ...
. Australian pelicans occur primarily in large expanses of open water without dense aquatic vegetation. The habitats that can support them include large lakes,
reservoir A reservoir (; from French language, French ''réservoir'' ) is an enlarged lake behind a dam. Such a dam may be either artificial, built to water storage, store fresh water or it may be a natural formation. Reservoirs can be created in a num ...
s,
billabong Billabong ( ) is an Australia, Australian term for an oxbow lake, an isolated pond left behind after a river changes course. Billabongs are usually formed when the path of a stream, creek or river changes, leaving the former branch with a dead ...
s and rivers, as well as estuaries, swamps, temporarily flooded areas in arid zones, drainage channels in farmland,
salt evaporation pond A salt evaporation pond is a shallow artificial salt pan (geology), salt pan designed to extract salts from sea water or other brines. The Salt pans are shallow and large of size because it will be easier for sunlight to travel and reach the sea ...
s and coastal
lagoon A lagoon is a shallow body of water separated from a larger body of water by a narrow landform, such as reefs, barrier islands, barrier peninsulas, or isthmuses. Lagoons are commonly divided into ''coastal lagoons'' (or ''barrier lagoons'') an ...
s. The surrounding environment is unimportant: it can be forest, grassland, desert,
estuarine An estuary is a partially enclosed coastal body of brackish water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea. Estuaries form a transition zone between river environments and maritime environment ...
mudflats, an ornamental city park, or industrial wasteland, provided only that there is open water able to support a sufficient supply of food. However, they do seem to prefer areas where disturbance is relatively low while breeding. They may also roost on mudflats, sandbars, beaches, reefs,
jetties A jetty is a structure that projects from land out into water. A jetty may serve as a breakwater, as a walkway, or both; or, in pairs, as a means of constricting a channel. The term derives from the French word ', "thrown", signifying some ...
and
piling A deep foundation is a type of foundation (architecture), foundation that transfers building loads to the earth farther down from the surface than a shallow foundation does to a subsurface layer or a range of depths. A pile or piling is a ...
s. The species became first known to occur in New Zealand from a specimen shot at
Jerusalem Jerusalem (; he, יְרוּשָׁלַיִם ; ar, القُدس ) (combining the Biblical and common usage Arabic names); grc, Ἱερουσαλήμ/Ἰεροσόλυμα, Hierousalḗm/Hierosóluma; hy, Երուսաղեմ, Erusałēm. i ...
in 1890 and small numbers of
subfossil A fossil (from Classical Latin , ) is any preserved remains, impression, or trace of any once-living thing from a past geological age. Examples include bones, Seashell, shells, exoskeletons, stone imprints of animals or microbes, objects pre ...
bones, the first found at Lake Grassmere in 1947, followed by records of other stray individuals. The bones were later described as a new (sub)species, ''Pelecanus (conspicillatus) novaezealandiae'' (Scarlett, 1966: "New Zealand pelican") as they appeared to be larger, but Worthy (1998), reviewing new material, determined that they were not separable from the Australian population. These fossils were first found in 1930. Australian pelicans follow no particular schedule of regular movement, simply following the availability of food supplies. Drought frequently precedes movements. When the normally barren
Lake Eyre Lake Eyre ( ), Dual naming, officially known as Kati Thanda–Lake Eyre, is an endorheic lake in east-central Far North (South Australia), Far North South Australia, some north of Adelaide. The shallow lake is the depocentre of the vast endo ...
filled during 1974 to 1976, for example, only a handful of pelicans remained around the coastal cities: when the great inland lakes dried again, the population dispersed once more, flocks of thousands being seen on the northern coasts. On some occasions, they are simply blown by the wind to new locations. It is a fairly regular visitor to the southern coast of
New Guinea New Guinea (; Hiri Motu: ''Niu Gini''; id, Papua, or , historically ) is the List of islands by area, world's second-largest island with an area of . Located in Oceania in the southwestern Pacific Ocean, the island is separated from Mainlan ...
, as well as the
Bismarck Islands The Bismarck Archipelago (, ) is a group of islands off the northeastern coast of New Guinea New Guinea (; Hiri Motu: ''Niu Gini''; id, Papua, or , historically ) is the List of islands by area, world's second-largest island with an are ...
and
Solomon Islands Solomon Islands is an island country consisting of six major islands and over 900 smaller islands in Oceania, to the east of Papua New Guinea and north-west of Vanuatu. It has a land area of , and a population of approx. 700,000. Its capita ...
. It occurs as a vagrant to
Christmas Island Christmas Island, officially the Territory of Christmas Island, is an states and territories of Australia, Australian external territory comprising the island of the same name. It is located in the Indian Ocean, around south of Java and Su ...
,
Vanuatu Vanuatu ( or ; ), officially the Republic of Vanuatu (french: link=no, République de Vanuatu; bi, Ripablik blong Vanuatu), is an island country located in the South Pacific Ocean. The archipelago, which is of volcanic origin, is east of no ...
,
Fiji Fiji ( , ,; fj, Viti, ; Fiji Hindi: फ़िजी, ''Fijī''), officially the Republic of Fiji, is an island country in Melanesia, part of Oceania in the South Pacific Ocean. It lies about north-northeast of New Zealand. Fiji consists ...
,
Palau Palau,, officially the Republic of Palau and historically ''Belau'', ''Palaos'' or ''Pelew'', is an island country and microstate in the western Pacific Ocean, Pacific. The nation has approximately 340 islands and connects the western ch ...
and
New Zealand New Zealand ( mi, Aotearoa ) is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It consists of two main landmasses—the North Island () and the South Island ()—and over 700 List of islands of New Zealand, smaller islands. It is the ...
. A population irruption occurred in 1978 into
Indonesia Indonesia, officially the Republic of Indonesia, is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania between the Indian Ocean, Indian and Pacific Ocean, Pacific oceans. It consists of over List of islands of Indonesia, 17,000 islands, including Sumatr ...
, with Australian pelicans reaching
Sulawesi Sulawesi (), also known as Celebes (), is an island in Indonesia. One of the four Greater Sunda Islands, and the List of islands by area, world's eleventh-largest island, it is situated east of Borneo, west of the Maluku Islands, and south of ...
,
Java Java (; id, Jawa, ; jv, ꦗꦮ; su, ) is one of the Greater Sunda Islands in Indonesia. It is bordered by the Indian Ocean to the south and the Java Sea to the north. With a population of 151.6 million people, Java is the world's List ...
and possibly also
Sumatra Sumatra is one of the Sunda Islands of western Indonesia. It is the largest island that is fully within Indonesian territory, as well as the list of islands by area, sixth-largest island in the world at 473,481 km2 (182,812 mi.2), n ...
.


Feeding

Australian pelicans feed by plunge-diving while swimming on the surface of the water. They work in groups to drive fish to shallower water, where they stick their sensitive bills in to snatch their prey. Some feeding grounds in large bodies of water have included up to 1,900 individual birds. They will sometimes also forage solitarily. Their predominant prey is fish and they commonly feed on introduced species such as
goldfish The goldfish (''Carassius auratus'') is a freshwater fish in the Family (biology), family Cyprinidae of Order (biology), order Cypriniformes. It is commonly kept as a pet in indoor aquariums, and is one of the most popular List of freshwater aq ...
, European carp and
European perch The European perch (''Perca fluviatilis''), also known as the common perch, redfin perch, big-scaled redfin, English perch, Euro perch, Eurasian perch, Eurasian river perch, Hatch, poor man’s rockfish or in Anglophone parts of Europe, simply th ...
. When possible, they also eat native fish, with a seeming preference for the perch ''
Leiopotherapon unicolor ''Leiopotherapon unicolor'', the spangled grunter or spangled perch is a species of ray-finned fish, a grunter from the Family (biology), family Terapontidae. It is Endemism, endemic to Australia. Description ''Leiopotherapon unicolor'' has a sl ...
''. However, the Australian pelican seems to be less of a
piscivore A piscivore () is a carnivore, carnivorous animal that eats primarily fish. The name ''piscivore'' is derived . Piscivore is equivalent to the Greek-derived word ichthyophage, both of which mean "fish eater". Fish were the diet of early tetra ...
and more
catholic The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptized Catholics worldwide . It is among the world's oldest and largest international institutions, and has played a ...
in taste than other pelicans. It regularly feeds on insects and many aquatic
crustacean Crustaceans (Crustacea, ) form a large, diverse arthropod taxon which includes such animals as decapods, seed shrimp, branchiopods, fish lice, krill, remipedes, isopods, barnacles, copepods, amphipods and mantis shrimp. The crustacea ...
s, especially the
common yabby The common yabby (''Cherax destructor'') is an Australian freshwater crustacean in the Parastacidae family Family (from la, familia) is a Social group, group of people related either by consanguinity (by recognized birth) or Affinity ( ...
and the shrimps in the genus ''
Macrobrachium ''Macrobrachium'' is a genus of freshwater prawns or shrimps characterised by the extreme enlargement of the second pair of pereiopods, at least in the male. Species It contains these species: *''Macrobrachium acanthochirus'' F. Villalobos, ...
''. This pelican also takes other birds with some frequency, such as
silver gull The silver gull (''Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae'') is the most common gull of Australia. It has been found throughout the continent, but particularly at or near coastal areas. It is smaller than the Pacific gull (''Larus pacificus''), which ...
s,
Australian white ibis The Australian white ibis (''Threskiornis molucca'') is a wading bird Birds are a group of warm-blooded vertebrates constituting the class (biology), class Aves (), characterised by feathers, toothless beaked jaws, the Oviparity, lay ...
and
grey teal The grey teal (''Anas gracilis'') is a dabbling duck The Anatinae are a subfamily of the family (biology), family Anatidae (swans, goose, geese and ducks). Its surviving members are the dabbling ducks, which feed mainly at the surface rather t ...
, including eggs, nestlings, fledglings and adults, which they may kill by pinning them underwater and drowning them.
Reptile Reptiles, as most commonly defined are the animals in the Class (biology), class Reptilia ( ), a paraphyletic grouping comprising all sauropsid, sauropsids except birds. Living reptiles comprise turtles, crocodilians, Squamata, squamates (lizar ...
s and
amphibian Amphibians are tetrapod, four-limbed and ectothermic vertebrates of the Class (biology), class Amphibia. All living amphibians belong to the group Lissamphibia. They inhabit a wide variety of habitats, with most species living within terres ...
s are also taken when available. Reportedly even small dogs have been swallowed. The Australian pelican is an occasional kleptoparasite of other water birds, such as
cormorant Phalacrocoracidae is a family (biology), family of approximately 40 species of aquatic birds commonly known as cormorants and shags. Several different classifications of the family have been proposed, but in 2021 the International Ornithologists ...
s.
Cannibalism Cannibalism is the act of consuming another individual of the same species as food. Cannibalism is a common ecology, ecological interaction in the animal kingdom and has been recorded in more than 1,500 species. Human cannibalism is well docum ...
of young pelicans has also been reported.


Breeding

The Australian pelican begins breeding at two or three years of age. The breeding season varies, occurring in winter in tropical areas (north of 26°S) and spring in parts of southern Australia. Breeding may occur any time after rainfall in inland areas. The nest is a shallow depression in earth or sand, sometimes with some grass lining. Grassy platforms are constructed at Lake Alexandrina in South Australia. Rarely, slightly more elaborate nests have also been observed on top of ''
Muehlenbeckia florulenta ''Duma florulenta'' (Synonym (taxonomy), synonym ''Muehlenbeckia florulenta''), commonly known as tangled lignum or often simply lignum, is a plant native to inland Australia. It is associated with wetland habitats, especially those in arid and ...
'' bushes. Nesting is communal, with colonies located on islands (such as the North Peron Island) or sheltered areas in the vicinity of lakes or the sea. Breeding Australian pelicans will lay one to four (typically two) chalky-white eggs measuring , which often appear scratched and dirty. The eggs are incubated for 32 to 35 days. The chicks are naked when they hatch, though quickly grow grey down feathers. After they hatch, the larger one will be fed more, and the smaller one will eventually die of starvation or
siblicide Siblicide (attributed by behavioural ecologist Doug Mock to Barbara M. Braun) is the killing of an infant individual by its close relatives (full or half siblings). It may occur directly between sibling A sibling is a relative that shares at ...
. For the first two weeks the chicks will be fed regurgitated liquid, but for the remaining two months they will be fed fish and some
invertebrate Invertebrates are a paraphyletic group of animals that neither possess nor develop a vertebral column (commonly known as a ''backbone'' or ''spine''), derived from the notochord. This is a grouping including all animals apart from the chordata, ...
s. Feeding pods are formed within colonies when the chicks are around 25 days. The young pelicans
fledge Fledging is the stage in a flying animal's life between egg, hatching or birth and becoming capable of flight. This term is most frequently applied to birds, but is also used for bats. For altricial birds, those that spend more time in vulnera ...
at around three months of age.


Status

The Australian pelican is not globally threatened. They are usually fairly common in proper habitats. At the aforementioned temporary inundation of Lake Eyre in March 1990, over 200,000 adult birds were found to be breeding. The species is legally protected and does not seem to be showing any immediate adverse effects from pollution. In several areas, such as the beach at
Monkey Mia Monkey Mia is a popular tourist destination located about 900 km north of Perth, Western Australia Perth is the list of Australian capital cities, capital and largest city of the Australian states and territories of Australia, state ...
,
Western Australia Western Australia (commonly abbreviated as WA) is a state of Australia occupying the western percent of the land area of Australia excluding external territories. It is bounded by the Indian Ocean to the north and west, the Southern Ocean to th ...
and at
The Entrance, New South Wales The Entrance is a coastal town and List of Central Coast suburbs, suburb in the Central Coast (New South Wales), Central Coast region of New South Wales, Australia. It is part of the Central Coast Council (New South Wales), Central Coast Counci ...
, pelicans may associate with humans and may even beg for hand-outs, but they are quite sensitive to human disturbances while nesting. They will readily adapt to artificial bodies of water such as reservoirs so long as there is no regular boating in them. Due to the popularity of open water sports, the habitat of the Australian pelican has suffered considerably less than more vegetated wetlands throughout Australia. The Australian pelican is evaluated as a
least-concern species A least-concern species is a species that has been Conservation status, categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as evaluated as not being a focus of species conservation because the specific species is still plen ...
on the
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, also known as the IUCN Red List or Red Data Book, founded in 1964, is the world's most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of biol ...
.


Local names

In parts of
South Australia South Australia (commonly abbreviated as SA) is a States and territories of Australia, state in the southern central part of Australia. It covers some of the most arid parts of the country. With a total land area of , it is the fourth-largest o ...
the pelican is known by its Ngaarrindjeri name, ''nori''. It was the
totem A totem (from oj, ᑑᑌᒼ, italics=no or ''doodem'') is a spirit being, sacred object, or symbol that serves as an emblem of a group of people, such as a family, clan, lineage (anthropology), lineage, or tribe, such as in the Anishinaabe clan ...
of singer
Ruby Hunter Ruby Charlotte Margaret Hunter (31 October 195517 February 2010), also known as Aunty Ruby, was an Aboriginal Australian singer, songwriter and guitarist, and the life and musical partner of Archie Roach . Early life Ruby Hunter was born on 31 ...
.


References


Gallery

Image:AustralianPelicansMcArthurRiverMouth.jpg, Some Australian pelicans at the mouth of the McArthur River Image:Pelican@melb zoo02.jpg, At
Melbourne Zoo Melbourne Zoo is a zoo A zoo (short for zoological garden; also called an animal park or menagerie) is a facility in which animals are kept within enclosures for public exhibition and often bred for Conservation biology, conservation purpos ...
Image:Pelican feeding at The Entrance.jpg, Artificial feeding at
The Entrance, New South Wales The Entrance is a coastal town and List of Central Coast suburbs, suburb in the Central Coast (New South Wales), Central Coast region of New South Wales, Australia. It is part of the Central Coast Council (New South Wales), Central Coast Counci ...
Image:Australian Pelican.jpg, Beach roosting at
Moreton Island Moreton Island (Mulgumpin) is an island An island (or isle) is an isolated piece of habitat that is surrounded by a dramatically different habitat, such as water. Very small islands such as emergent land features on atolls can be called ...
Image:Australian-Pelican-1.jpg, Lake Albert, New South Wales Image:Tangalooma Pelican.JPG, At Tangalooma, during artificial feeding session Image:Pelecanus conspicillatus.jpg, At Noosaville, Queensland Image:Strange pelican behaviour.jpg, Beak stretching Image:Australian-Pelican-Portside-1.jpg, At
Portside Wharf Portside Wharf is the international cruise terminal, residential and retail development at Hamilton Hamilton may refer to: People * Hamilton (name), a common British surname and occasional given name, usually of Scottish origin, including a ...
in
Brisbane Brisbane ( ) is the capital and most populous city of the states and territories of Australia, Australian state of Queensland, and the list of cities in Australia by population, third-most populous city in Australia and Oceania, with a populati ...
, Queensland Image:Australian Pelicans.jpg, Three Australian pelicans resting Image:Brillenpelikan_(Pelecanus-conspicillatus)_Weltvogelpark_Walsrode_2010.jpg, Australian pelican during summer heat at
Weltvogelpark Walsrode Weltvogelpark Walsrode, known as Walsrode Bird Park or Jubs in English until 2010, is a bird park located in the middle of the Lüneburg Heath in North Germany Northern Germany (german: link=no, Norddeutschland) is a linguistic, geographic, soc ...
Image:Brillenpelikan_(Pelecanus-conspicillatus)_Weltvogelpark_Walsrode_2010-2.jpg, Australian pelican catching prey at
Weltvogelpark Walsrode Weltvogelpark Walsrode, known as Walsrode Bird Park or Jubs in English until 2010, is a bird park located in the middle of the Lüneburg Heath in North Germany Northern Germany (german: link=no, Norddeutschland) is a linguistic, geographic, soc ...
Image:Pelecanus conspicillatus pair swimming.jpg, Swimming pair, Claremont, Tasmania, Australia Image:Australian Pelican takeoff.jpg, Australian pelican taking off in Blackwattle Bay, Sydney New South Wales Image:Australian Pelican at Sydney Fish Market.jpg, At Sydney Fish Market


Further reading

*Scarlett, R. J. (1966): A Pelican in New Zealand. ''Notornis'' 13(4): 204–217
PDF fulltext
*Worthy, Trevor H. (1998): A remarkable fossil and archaeological fauna from Marfells Beach, Lake Grassmere, South Island, New Zealand. ''Records of the Canterbury Museum'' 12: 79–176.

— ''Australian Museum Online''


External links


Pelican videos
on the Internet Bird Collection

BirdLife International * ttps://web.archive.org/web/20060806140023/http://www.amonline.net.au/factsheets/australian_pelican.htm Australian Museum fact sheet*
Gould Gould may refer to: People * Gould (name), a surname Places United States * Gould, Arkansas, a city * Gould, Colorado, an unincorporated community * Gould, Ohio, an unincorporated community * Gould, Oklahoma, a town * Gould, West Virgini ...
's '' The Birds of Australia'
plateAussie Pelicans, Victor Harbor, South Australia
{{DEFAULTSORT:pelican, Australian Australian pelican Australian pelican Australian pelican Australian pelican Articles containing video clips