Pelicans and Storks

The first gallery shows pelicans that belong to the Pelecanidae family and storks to Ciconiidae, see Taxonomy note below. More galleries show pelican and stork species roosting, flying, preening, drying-out together and other behaviours in fresh and saltwater habitats.

Pelicans and Storks

Pelican and Stork Notes

Apart from three stork species, all others are ‘Red List (2019)’ assessed as ‘Least Concern’. The black-necked and painted storks are ‘Near Threatened’ and the milky stork ‘Endangered’.

Images photographed in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Galapagos. These species are amongst the largest waterbirds.

There have been sightings of milky and painted storks in Singapore, mainly in the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Their status here is debatable as they could be either vagrant or escapee. The IUCN lists them as introduced to Singapore and raises concerns about milky and painted hybridisation. One of the distinguishing features of a painted stork is a pectoral band while milky storks have a black patch at the base of bill. So, the painted stork displayed in the gallery may be a hybrid.

Pelican Behaviour

Pelican Behaviour Notes

The gallery shows a sequence of a pelican possibly drinking water from shallows at Cairns mudflats in Queensland. I was observing birds on the mudflats when I noticed a pelican heading for shallow water near the Esplanade wall. I assume this was freshwater runoff from the city rather than seawater. It went into the stream then stopped, opened its beak, pulled its head back so that the lower mandible was inside out, then opened its beak again. After a few minutes, it put its open beak side-on into in the water, closed its beak before pulling it out, repeating the action but putting its head in as well. It then closed its beak full of water, then raised its to head as if to swallow. Or it may have just been washing its head and beak. The other images feature preening, resting, swimming and flying. The final image is brown pelicans resting on a fishing boat in Trinidad.

Australian pelican range is from western Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Australia and some west Pacific Island. It’s the largest pelican species having a wingspan around 2.5 metres and a long-elongated bill.

The brown pelican is the smallest of the species; its found in the Neotropic region. I photographed them diving into the sea of the northern Trinidadian coast at Grande Riviere, fishing at the Orange Valley Mudflats and in the Galapagos Islands.

Pelican Roost

Pelican Roost Behaviour Notes

I came across this small pelican roost on a small islet surrounded by reed beds at the edge of Lake Albert / Yarli on the east side of Meninge. There were both adult and immature pelicans together with at least one little pied and several little-black cormorants. Several adults decide to fly, making clumsy take-offs.

Stork Behaviour

Stork Behaviour Notes

Storks introduced to Singapore are the painted stork (Mycteria leucocephala) and milky stork (Mycteria cinerea), IUCN Red List refers. I photographed both species at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Also, a milky at the Japanese Garden, although it may have been an escapee from Jurong Bird Park.

According to IUCN Red List free-flying painted and milky storks occur at Singapore Zoo. And hybridisation has produced reproductively viable offspring (Yong D. L. in litt. 2011). There is a possibility that these hybrid birds could cross to Sumatra and mix with key milky stork populations and pose a threat if they crossed over into mainland South-East Asia. The Bird Ecology Study Group in Singapore reports of possible hybrids at Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve and its only 8Km, as the crow flies, from Mandai.

Distinguishing features: Painted storks are speckled black pectoral band, that all other stork species lack, and pinkish tinged wings, in non-breeding are generally duller. Milky storks have a black patch at the base of the beak. In non-breeding plumage lacks the milky-white tone, dark red facial skin, pinkish-yellow beak, red legs and feet.

I think images captioned milky stork are probably true except for the picture taken at Japanese Garden which does have a pink tinge to the wing. Captioned painted stork images, which have black patches at the base of the bill are probably hybrids although the sunbathing posed individual does have a pectoral band but seems to lack pink wing tinge. Maybe all milky and painted storks in Singapore are hybrids but favouring one species.

Pelican and Stork Taxonomy

I’ve lumped pelicans and storks together in this photo album for convenience. These core waterbirds webpage describes the higher-level taxonomy for the pelican and stork families.