Patea fits the bill for rare Aussie visitors

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 13/12/2013
Australian pelicans
LAIRD HARPER/Fairfax NZ

SIGHT TO SEE: In a rare event early last night, eight Australian pelicans landed on the Patea River and made themselves at home.

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Australian pelicans have flown into Patea and made the river their temporary home.

It is the first time in recorded history the wondrous waterbirds have been spotted in Taranaki, according to the local ornithological society.

The society records rare bird sightings. Taranaki chairman Barry Hartley, 80, said it was the first pelican visit he was aware of.

"That's definitely eight Australian pelicans," he said upon seeing the Taranaki Daily News photo last night.

"This is quite intriguing. Anything like this is very exciting," he said.

Since last May a few vagrants, up to 14 at times, have been seen in Northland, with a handful seen further south as far as the Waikato.

"The Patea ones are likely to be part of the same group though it is not impossible for a new influx from Australia to have occurred," Mr Hartely said.

Mr Hartley has been an avid bird lover since he was a young boy.

He said recent conditions had been ideal for birds crossing the Tasman.

"And there are thunderstorms over there so why not head to New Zealand?" he said.

He was considering a trip to Patea today to see the pelicans, near the coolstores.

"They could be gone though, or they may hang around for a week or a couple of weeks if they are happy there and have food."

The birds were spotted in the early evening by Hawera's Ben Lagan and Stacey Silbery, who notified the Daily News.

Mr Hartley said he was pleased they did, as it meant the ornithological society now had a record of the rare sighting.

In May last year, three of the large birds turned up on the Waikato River, but not long after one was found dead, full of shotgun pellets.

"That was just horrible. It's hard to believe someone would do that.

"I hope that doesn't happen here," Mr Hartley said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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