We were undecided if the pelicans had watches and could tell the time or if they flew in when they saw the people start to congregate, but either way by 8.45am for the three mornings we attended, the pelicans arrived. There were between two and four pelicans on the days we went but the previous week, the volunteer feeder advised sixteen flew in on one day.
The pelicans making their way up to the feeding area
We went during the Easter holidays and there was always quite a crowd of people. We were advised the regular gathering at the foreshore attracts adults and excited children even outside school holidays. The pelicans have always been seen at the beautiful Muchison River estuary and have been fed by volunteers since 1974. I won't tell you how it started as you will have to go and experience the feeding yourself.
Currently, there is a roster of five volunteers who feed the pelicans and over the 40 plus years, approximately sixty townsfolk have given their time for this short but interesting pastime. Our volunteer was Felicity and she was brilliant. She held the crowd's attention whilst entertaining us with pelican facts and safely feeding the enormous birds.
Depending on how many pelicans turn up, denotes how long the feeding will take. There are strict guidelines on how much they are allowed to feed them. They do not want them becoming dependent on getting an easy feed and they will still need to fish themselves after the feeding to consume their daily amount. The more birds that turn up, the more fish will be given out and the longer it will take. The advantage of lots of pelicans turning up means a greater chance of you having a turn at actually throwing them a fish.
There are seven different types of pelicans in the world and our Australian pelican is the largest and (in my opinion) the most beautiful. Despite being so large (the wingspan of a mature adult male can be almost three metres) they are really quite light and only weigh between four and eight kilos.
We left the feeding with a good knowledge of pelicans, all thanks to the experience of Felicity. We now know how long they live, how to tell if they are juvenile birds, their breeding pattern etc. Every day is a school day!
A gold coin donation is greatly appreciated to help with the cost of the fish and some people were putting notes into the bucket when we were there. It is a brilliant way to spend the early morning before heading off to enjoy the rest Kalbarri has to offer.