Pelican predation on nestlings

To: "Birding-Aus" <>
Subject: Pelican predation on nestlings
From: "Chris Baxter" <>
Date: Thu, 7 May 2009 10:40:45 +0930
Dear All


In response to L. Knight who posed the query - "have pelicans been observed
eating nestlings of other species?" - I add the following interesting
observation. Whilst Ian May and Myself were camped on Ibis Island in flooded
Lake Eyre North in year 2000, studying an 18,000 pair Banded Stilt breeding
event, an Australian Pelican would walk into the edge of the colony each day
and help itself to newly hatched chicks. It would devour a number of the
fluffy white young by snatching them up in its beak and then gobbling them
down as it would a pouch full of fish. Up to six chicks would be eaten at
any one time. It was quite distressing to watch it do this but compared to
the havoc Silver Gulls had caused to two earlier Banded Stilt nesting
attempts (on Hughes Island in LEN some weeks/months earlier) it paled
somewhat into insignificance. The Pelican would return from its resting spot
nearby the stilt colony to eat more young stilts whenever it felt hungry -
either later the same day or the following day. Of course, each time it
waddled in amongst the stilt colony and started thrusting its massive bill
into nests with chicks it caused extreme alarm and havoc. Small numbers of
marauding Silver Gulls (much reduced by earlier human intervention) would
then take the opportunity to prey on exposed eggs and/or young.




Chris Baxter

Kangaroo Island, SA


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