Aussie pelicans elude Kiwi birdwatchers

LAIRD HARPER
Last updated 05:00 14/12/2013
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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The highly unusual arrival of a flock of Australian pelicans in Taranaki has birdwatchers in a flap.

Early yesterday morning, about half a dozen people descended on the Patea River hoping to catch a glimpse of the majestic birds.

But most left with only tall tales of near-misses as the pelicans took their leave.

Whanganui photographer Paul Gibson said he arrived just in time to watch two of the big birds fly away.

"By the time I got my lens on the camera they were getting higher and headed south," he said.

"A harrier hawk came over and that spooks any bird."

Gibson, who has published several books on New Zealand birds, said the Australian natives had probably crossed the ditch for good and would now be on the hunt for food.

But it was unlikely the Patea River by itself could sustain them.

"They will hang around, but they will find a suitable feeding area and this [Patea River] wouldn't be very good for them."

He said it was also possible the eight birds were part of a group of 13 that had made Northland their home.

"In the last 18 months since those birds have been there they have continually moved around."

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- Taranaki Daily News

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