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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Great White Pelicans gobbling Gannets

Listed in David Attenborough's world's most amazing animals is the Great White Pelican,Pelecanus onocrotalus, which biologist Marta de Ponte Machado has revealed has adapted it's behaviour to gobbling live Gannet chicks in South Africa.

Dwindling fish stocks off the coast of South Africa have forced pelican to look elsewhere for their food. Many have turned to eating offal found at farms in the Cape Town, while others have taken to eating other seabirds. The pelican's huge bill means it is able to swallow the chicks of gannets, tern, cormorants and even African penguins. The behavior has been filmed for the BBC Life series Life found here. (Those outside the U.K. can view a video clip on BBC here):
"On the island of Malgas in South Africa, the pelicans attack any gannet chick that is left undefended by its parents and is small enough to swallow. As a result, entire gannet colonies are in danger of being destroyed. The predatory behaviour is captured for the BBC natural history series Life.
Cape gannets and pelicans are members of the same bird family. Cape gannets (Morus capensis) have a wingpsan of up to 1.8m when fully grown and can live for up to 25 years. The species breeds in just six places, of which one is Malgas island in South Africa. Due to people overfishing sardine and anchovies off the coast of Southern Africa, the population of gannets has dwindled.
...Once the pelicans cooperated to hunt freshwater fish, but a decline in fish stocks and habitat destruction is altering their food preferences. Each day, hoards of the pelicans fly across to Malgas and wander through the gannet colony."
Where to spot them
Birdwatching tours can be booked from Cape Town including trips to Dassen Island, where all the birds mentioned above can be seen.

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