Recently there has been quite a reduction in our Pelican population on Bribie Island. Where are they going? Will they come back? In central Australia, there is a huge mass of water slowly making its way to the Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre Basin and from near the end of March, the lake has been slowly filling with the waters dumped in the North from Cyclone Trevor. As the lake fills the waters fill with fish and aquatic life and vegetation become plentiful.
Pelicans from all over Australia and as far away as PNG somehow get the message and begin to fly to begin their breeding season. At the peak of the season, there can be as many as 200 000 pelicans vying for nesting positions on the ground and on the islands on the lake. As they can breed at any time of the year the fact that winter is coming on should not be a deterrent.
They don’t have a lot of time as Lake Eyre often does not stay full for long and the pelicans try to get as many broods as possible hatched and dispatched before the waters start drying up. When the lake is full the water has the same salt content as the ocean but as it dries up the salinity increases and the fish begin to die. Many Pelicans that have not flown back to their homes are caught out with young to care for and no food.
The parents then have to fly long distances to try to obtain food and eventually through exhaustion and starvation hundreds of birds and their young perish in the harsh conditions. The reason we don’t ever see baby pelicans on Bribie Island is that the pelicans breed so far away. I did see many juveniles some years ago after Pelicans had disappeared from the island for some time.
When they came back they brought many almost fully grown juveniles with them. Maybe we will see more when they return this time. When they return it would be nice as a welcoming gesture to have new perches preferably over water installed on the bridge.
Where the Pelican Builds.
The horses were ready, the rails were down, But the riders lingered still,— One had a parting word to say, And one had his pipe to fill. Then they mounted, one with a granted prayer, And one with a grief unguessed. “We are going” they said, as they rode away— “Where the pelican builds her nest!”
They had told us of pastures wide and green, To be sought past the sunset’s glow; Of rifts in the ranges by opal lit, And gold ‘neath the river’s flow. And thirst and hunger were banished words When they spoke of that unknown West; No drought they dreaded, no flood they feared, Where the pelican builds her nest!
The creek at the ford was but fetlock deep When we watched them crossing there; The rains have replenished it thrice since then And thrice has the rock lain bare. But the waters of Hope have flowed and fled, And never from blue hill’s breast Come back—by the sun and the sands devoured— Where the pelican builds her nest! Mary Hannay Foott (1846-1918)