Stray Australian pelican is a hit in the Philippines

Lost waterbird is the first of its kind to be seen in the Philippines.
An Australian white pelican flies over the coastal waters of General Santos City, Philippines, on September 12, 2016. Ferdinandh Cabrera / Agence France-Presse
An Australian white pelican flies over the coastal waters of General Santos City, Philippines, on September 12, 2016. Ferdinandh Cabrera / Agence France-Presse

GENERAL SANTOS, PHILIPPINES // An Australian pelican that strayed hundreds of kilometres from its nearest known habitat and ended up in the Philippines has become a star attraction. The bird is the first of its kind ever seen in the Philippines and ever since its arrival in early September, birdwatchers from near and far have been flocking to have a look.

The pelican flew into a fish breeding farm on the outskirts of the southern port of General Santos.

“We saw a small flock of swallows chasing this big strange bird,” said local resident Levy Discamento. “There was an air battle until the big bird gave up and ran toward the mangroves.”

He said birdwatchers were descending on the town and renting dugouts to watch and photograph the pelican as it gorges on fish from the nearby Sarangani Bay. The bird is certainly impressive. This species has mostly white plumage and boasts a bill measuring up to 47 centimetres — the longest of any bird.

“We feel (it) is a blessing, bringing good vibes to people, ” said Jimmy Poja, a local fisherman.

Willem van de Ven, a Manila-based biologist and president of the Wild Bird Club of the Philippines, said the species is found all over Australia and occasionally as far as New Zealand, some Polynesian islands, New Guinea, and parts of Indonesia — but not in the Philippines.

“General Santos is definitely the most northern place it has been recorded in recent history, and quite a bit farther than usual,” he said. The pelicans do not migrate seasonally and have never been spotted north of Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, which lies more than 600 kilometres south of General Santos.

According to the Wild Bird Club, club, the last previous pelican sighting in the country was in 2009 when a Dalmatian pelican was seen on the central island of Leyte but died a few days later.

* Agence France Presse

Published: September 14, 2016 04:00 AM

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