Backyard Buddies

Photo: JJ Harrison


Go Back

The Pelican’s massive bill has an extendable pouch which can hold up to 13 litres of water.

The pouch acts as a net to catch fish. They strain all the water out the sides of their bills, then swallow their meal immediately – Pelicans don't hold things in their pouch for any extended length of time.

Pelicans are graceful fliers, but they can be quite clumsy on the ground with their big bodies and large, blue webbed feet.

During periods of drought when fish are becoming scarce, Pelicans will eat seagulls or ducklings.

Pelican youngsters throw very dramatic tantrums- It is a form of begging for food.

Australian Pelicans love large expanses of open water that don’t have a lot of aquatic vegetation. Pelicans can live near freshwater, estuarine and marine wetlands, and waterways such as shores, lakes, rivers, swamps and coastal islands.

You’ll recognise a Pelican instantly by its large bill, which can grow up to 50 cm long, and its large size. Australian Pelicans grow to 1.8 m long and can have a wingspan of up to 2.5 m. Male Pelicans are larger than females.

With their big wings, Pelicans easily hitch rides on warm thermal air currents to rise to heights of up to 3,000 metres in the air. They can stay up there for 24 hours and can reach speeds of up to 56 km/h. They can travel hundreds of kilometres in one flight.

Australian Pelicans breed at any time of year in colonies of up to 40,000 birds, based on islands or secluded shores. They may live up to 25 years or more.

Try to keep your garden chemical and pesticide free, as rainfall will cause runoff to enter waterways where they can cause algal blooms or make fish (and the Pelicans who eat them) very sick.

Pick up rubbish when you go for a walk or it will wash into rivers or the ocean. One plastic bag can take hundreds of years to break up in the sea, and can cause the deaths of many creatures before it eventually decomposes.

Simple things that you do can make a huge difference to Australia’s animals. That’s why the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife is running Backyard Buddies— to give you tips to help.

What is a backyard buddy?

Backyard buddies are the native animals that share our built-up areas, our beaches and waterways, our backyards and our parks. The Pelican is a backyard buddy.

Backyard buddies are also the local people who value the living things around them, like Pelicans, and are willing to protect and encourage them by doing a few simple things around their own homes.

So you can be a backyard buddy.

Be a backyard buddy

It’s easy. All you have to do is care... and take a few simple steps.

Step one is to find out what Pelicans do and do not like.

Pelicans love:

Eating fish & aquatic animals – such as crustaceans, tadpoles and turtles.

Clean waterways – such as fresh- and salt-water lakes, rivers, streams, lagoons and swamps.

Finding their own food – so that they don’t become reliant on humans.

But they don't like:

Plastic and rubbish – which enter their waterways and can cause damage to their guts and intestines if swallowed.

Fishing line & hooks – which can tear their very sensitive bill pouches and cause them injuries.

Fast Cars – that zoom past their homes and can hit them. Call a wildlife carer or vet if you see an injured or sick Pelican.

Oil & chemicals – that get poured down the drain and eventually end up in waterways. Oils can coat their feathers and chemicals accumulate in the food chain and can make Pelicans and other marine animals sick.

Be a Pelican buddy

Try to:


Don't be surprised if:

Find out more about your buddies

SIGN UP: to receive regular B-mails about animals you’re likely to see in your backyard with tips on how to make your backyard friendly for them.