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Pelicans attracted to captive carp

Drought and some captive carp are believed to be attracting hundreds of pelicans and other birdlife to a Barooga waterway.

ROBERT HENSON March 18, 2014 4:07am

In formation: pelicans usually hunt in "herds" according to a State Government bird expert.


 

Drought and some captive carp are believed to be attracting hundreds of pelicans and other birdlife to a Barooga waterway.

The water body, about 15 minutes drive from Barooga, is currently hosting a feeding frenzy on carp and hatchlings.

Local residents speaking to the Courier said it was the first time in at least 30 years the species had been seen in the area.

Department of Environment and Primary Industries senior biodiversity officer for the Hume region Glen Johnson said the pelicans were ‘‘opportunistic’’ and triggered by food.

‘‘What drives pelicans is food availability... they’ve got an amazing sense of where resources are.

‘‘Normally what drives something like this is a particular cue ... somewhere where there’s lots of water, plenty of fish, a drying event and perhaps fish are becoming stressed and many will be dying.’’

Mr Johnson said pelicans would be herding fish, working in large teams to drive fish into a captive area, where they are plucked from the surface.

He said the large birds traditionally sought watery habitats, but not fast flowing water, instead preferring backwaters or billabongs.

‘‘The Hume Weir, Mulwala and large open water bodies will periodically have pelicans. They’re not uncommon in the district.’’

But Mr Johnson said drought conditions across much of NSW and Queensland could be contributing to a southern migration.

‘‘You tend to get large-scale movement preceding the ‘nail in the coffin’ in terms of drought — they won’t stick around in an area that’s useless to them in a food situation.

He said the pelicans would stick around, as long as the fish were plentiful.

‘‘They’ll stick around there (near Barooga) as long as there’s a food source. When it becomes marginal you might have a reduction ... when its not efficient to be here.’’

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