Australian pelican

Birds do keep coming across the Tasman from Australia and settling here. According to a report in the New Zealand Herald, Aug 23, 2012, thirteen Pelicans have made New Zealand their home, settling on the banks of the Northern Wairoa River, known as the Big Muddy, near Dargaville. It is believed the birds made their way here on an "unhelpful wind".

The odd pelican, vagrants, have made their way here before, but thirteen looks like a breeding colony which will mean they may be classified as native birds. This will depend upon an adequate food supply for several months, and undisturbed sandbanks to nest on. The Northern Wairoa river is known to have a rich supply of mullet which is thought to be a favourite food of the pelicans,

Australian Pelicans follow the availability of food supplies, dispersing widely as far as Indonesia, New Guinea and New Zealand. Drought frequently precedes movements. They mainly eat fish, but will also consume birds, insects, frogs, and scavenge for scraps. They normally feed by plunge-diving while swimming on the surface of the water. They work in groups to drive fish to shallower water.

During courtship, the orbital skin and distal quarter of the bill are orange-coloured with the pouch variously turning dark blue, pink and scarlet. Nesting is communal.

Sub Species:

Other common names:  — 

Description:  — 

Native bird

170 cm., 5 kg., white bird with pink bill and pouch, upperwing black with white panel. Juvenile brown where adult black.

Where to find:  — 

Near Dargaville.

Illustration description: — 


Gracius Browinowski, Birds of Australia, 1890s.

Reference(s): — 


Heather, B., & Robertson, H., Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand, 2000.

Page date & version: — 


Friday, 30 May 2014; ver2009v1


©  2005    Narena Olliver,    new zealand birds limited,     Greytown, New Zealand.