Australian Pelican flying in V-formation

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On board a cruise boat in June 2013 heading to the Coorong National Park, a wetland habitat south of Adelaide, Australia, Teo Lee Wei witnessed the Australian Pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus) in their V-formation flight. Such a formation is commonly associated with flying geese. The guide explained that the birds had seen a fishing boat and were following it.

Her video clip above also captures the birds about to land on the water and later feeding in shallow water while standing on a sandbar.

The Australian Pelican is the only species of pelican in Australia and the largest of its many waterbirds.

According to the Reader’s Digest Complete Book of Australian Birds (1986), “When in groups, pelicans fly in a loose V-formation or in a line. Heads are rested back, wings are flapped leisurely several times, and then spread flat in long glides that can carry the birds in soaring circles as high as 3000 metres. During droughts, some have reached Indonesia, Solomon Islands and New Zealand.”

As flight for these large birds requires considerable expenditure of energy, they exploit thermals whenever they fly great distances.

Now why do such birds fly in V-formation?

According to this LINK, “First, it conserves their energy. Each bird flies slightly above the bird in front of him, resulting in a reduction of wind resistance. The birds take turns being in the front, falling back when they get tired. In this way, the geese can fly for a long time before they must stop for rest. …The second benefit to the V formation is that it is easy to keep track of every bird in the group. Flying in formation may assist with the communication and coordination within the group. Fighter pilots often use this formation for the same reason.”

Teo Lee Wei
Singapore
July 2013

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