Pelicans and Storks

The first gallery shows Pelican (Pelecanidae) and Stork (Ciconiidae) families, 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’. The Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis urinator) is a Galapagos subspecies endemic.

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. See Stork Behaviour Notes section below.

Asian Openbill is a rare non-breeding visitor to Singapore. I photographed it while feeding at Sungei Buloh Mudflats.

Pelican Behaviour

Pelican Behaviour Notes

The gallery shows a sequence of Australian Pelican possibly drinking water from shallows at Cairns mudflats in Queensland. I was observing these 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 closed its beak full of water, then raised its to head as if to swallow, or it may have been washing its head and beak. The other images feature preening, resting, 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 to Australia, and some West Pacific Islands. 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; 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.
Nazca Boobies (Sula granti) female and chick with the male making a small stone offering at Espanola Island

Australian Pelicans at Lake Albert in South Australia

Images of Australian pelicans flying and behaviours on an islet in Lake Albert at Meninge, South Australia.

Stork Behaviour

Stork Behaviour Notes

Both the Painted Stork (Mycteria leucocephala) and Milky Stork (Mycteria cinerea) are extant and introduced (seasonality uncertain) species to Singapore, 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

Although Pelicans and Storks belong to different orders, I’ve lumped them together for convenience.  The Core Waterbirds Webpages describe the higher-level taxonomy for (i) Pelecanidae (Pelicans) placed in Pelecaniformes and (ii) Ciconiidae (Storks) which belong to Plataleiformes; both part of the Aequornithes (Core Waterbirds) clade.