Pelicans with patterned pouches

I stalked a group of pelicans: they were at a lake rather than the beach and they looked awesome with the dark background. I took several photos and checked the images on screen before realising some of them had pouches that looked as though they had been painted by a child with a wonderful imagination.


Australian Pelican (Pelicanus conspicillatus) – in breeding plumage, or should that be ‘pouchage’


Pelicans can breed at any time of the year depending largely on rainfall. During the courtship period their pouches and bills become brightly coloured but fade rapidly once the deed is done. The clutch size is 1-3 eggs but the first hatchling is far larger than any others and can be the only survivor as it is not adverse to attacking and killing its siblings.


 Australian Pelican


Pelicans can be quite intimidating and the size of that pouch makes me believe that stories of tiny dogs being taken could be more than urban myths. I like the way the lighting shows the pouch’s blood vessels and highlights the hook at the end of the bill.


  Australian Pelican


This pelican has two catch-lights in its eye, which is unusal unless there are two light sources used when the image is taken. I do not use a flash when photographing birds so was puzzled until I enlarged the image and realised that the upper catch-light is the sun’s reflection on the pelican’s eye and the lower light is the reflection on the pelican’s partly raised nictitating membrane, or third eyelid. As birds do not blink they rely on the nictitating membrane to clean and lubricate their eyes and to protect them from harsh light and strong wind – I could use a set of them myself.

Happy birding, Kim




6 comments to Pelicans with patterned pouches

  • These images are lovely Kim! I love how the pouches look painted and how pretty the eyes look with the yellow lores.

    • lirralirra

      Thank you Mia! I’ve just found this message, sorry about the delay in replying. I’m glad you like the painted pelicans, I was enjoying Brown Pelicans on your site recently, beautiful images!

  • Jenny Skewes

    Hi Kim

    Carole King sent me the link to this blog. I love what you have done. These pelican shots are great – pelicans can be a bit of a cliche, but these are really different and striking.
    I also started as a birder, and gradually got in to photography. I have the same lens as you but a much earlier lower level camera, the 400D. Lately I have been finding it very heavy to handhold and I am trying out a lighter setup.
    You seem to have got very close to the birds – can I assume you have cropped the originals? I hope we can talk about all this at Camera Club.

    • lirralirra

      Hi Jenny, I really appreciate your kind words about the pelican images, thank you. Isn’t it good to be able to ‘bird’ in the dark when we check images in the evening. I’m planning on coming to a Camera Club meeting before Christmas, I look forward to meeting you, Kim

  • Kim The pelicans are brilliant!! Was Rachel with you when you photographed them?? I have a very talented Bigsis!!!

    • lirralirra

      Thank you Katrina, I’m really glad you like them. Rachel was with me, she wasn’t very impressed with the way they were clacking their bills.

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