A blog covering life and happenings in Cape Town

Thursday, June 02, 2005

White Pelicans of the Western Cape.

Posted by Hello

Pelicans waiting at the pig farm for offal

Living in Cape Town which has many bird species it is easy to notice the larger birds that fly around overhead.

One of these birds is the pelican which sort of glides along like someone ambling along when going for a walk.

As they often fly over my home towards the south east I wondered where they were going.

A few weeks ago I found out when I took a trip out to Stellenbosch.

At the turnoff to Stellenbosch is a pig farm and there on the edge of the farm dam were hundreds of pelicans.

What were they doing there?

There appeared to be no reason for their presence as they were not wading in the dam but sitting on the dam wall waiting for something.

I've subsequently found out that they were waiting for food.

Over recent years the pelicans have discovered farms around Cape Town where offal is fed to the pigs and they congregate in their hundreds and wait for the food to arrive.

Posted by Hello

Hundreds of pelicans sitting on the dam wall at a pig farm

Experts studying the birds behaviour are extremely worried about the birds feeding on offal especially dead chicken carcasses.

If the carcasses were to contain any type of poison hundreds of birds could die at the same time just about wiping out the whole pelican colony.

Great White pelicans breed in various places around Cape Town with their main breeding ground being Dassen Island.

They have been breeding on Dassen Island since 1956.

The size of the pelican population on the island has increased steadily, and currently is about 700 pairs which breed, mostly on Boom Point in the northwest on the island.

These birds fly to the mainland to feed.

Other birds such as the Kelp Gull, Cape Cormorants and Swift Terns also breed on the island but these days they are under threat as the pelicans descend on their nests and eat their chicks.

I've always thought that pelicans fed only on fish but this appears not to be the case.

They seem to like flesh in any form and swallow it whole.

Pelicans are interesting birds with their big bills which some say can hold more than bellies can.

Unfortunately for bird lovers access to Dassen Island and its pelican colony is restricted as there is no safe landing for boats.

Authorities are however looking into ways and means of opening up the island for visitors as there is also a large penguin colony on the island which many people would love to see.

In the meantime we will just watch them fly overhead as they are far more graceful in the air than on the ground.

Geoff Fairman.

p.s. Turtle Essays latest edition is online now.


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