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Drone monitoring reveals pelicans actively breeding in Coorong

Innovative drone monitoring technology has revealed the iconic Australian Pelican has been actively breeding in the Coorong South Lagoon.

Drone monitoring technology has revealed the iconic Australian Pelican has been actively breeding (Photo: Jarrod Hodgson)

University of Adelaide Ecologist Jarrod Hodgson has been working with the Department for Environment and Water (DEW) to use drones in the Coorong on a monthly basis, since spring 2018 until June 2019, in an effort to better understand pelican breeding behaviour.

“Data collected by the drones is proving to be useful for assessing breeding populations of a number of fauna, including pelicans,” said Mr Hodgson.

“We’ve been able to monitor a large island colony of these waterbirds in the Coorong and determine stages of breeding, including the incubation of eggs, and the presence of chicks and juveniles.”

Department for Environment and Water (DEW) Project Officer Kirsty Wedge said it was a positive sign that pelicans are continuing to breed in drier conditions.

“Conditions are dry at present, and the survival of pelican fledglings and juveniles will be dependent on rainfall and delivery of water for the environment over the coming months,” Ms Wedge said.  

“Juvenile pelicans will continue to be monitored in the coming months to track their survival rates, but so far the results are proving positive.”

Pelicans form breeding colonies on secluded islands or shorelines where they undertake unique courtship rituals.

“It’s really quite an amazing process - the males try to win the females affection by swinging their bills from side to side or throwing small objects such as sticks and fish in the air,” Ms Wedge said.

“The female pelicans prepare the nests, which she digs into the ground with her bill and feet and lines it with vegetation, sticks or feathers and within three days, egg-laying begins with clutches consisting of between one to four eggs.”

Monitoring by The University of Adelaide was funded through The Living Murray program. The Living Murray is a joint initiative funded by the New South Wales, Victorian, South Australian, Australian Capital Territory and Commonwealth governments, coordinated by the Murray Darling Basin Authority. 

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Pelicans will continue to be monitored in the coming months to track survival rates

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