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Friday, September 3, 2021

Pink-backed Pelican and Dwarf Bittern, very rare birds in the Western Cape.

Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(The Great White Pelicans on the left dwarfing the Pink-Backed Pelicans to the right)
  

My First Sighting of the  Pink-Backed Pelican


The pink backed pelican is the smallest of the pelican family; however, it is small. This beautiful bird can grow from 125 to 155cm and weigh approximately 4 to 7kg, with a wingspan of 2.15 to 2.9m. The females are moderately smaller than the males. Pink-backed pelicans have grey plumage, pinkish back, dark flight feathers, and grey or pink patterns on their upper wings.



Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(Rare visitors the Western Cape, Pink-Backed Pelicans seen on the northern end of Zeekoevlei)



Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(Pink-Backed Pelicans roost in trees so no problem with a better view, unlike the Great White Pelican) 


Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(This is where we located the first Pink-Backed Pelican, sleeping with his head tucked under its wing) 



These birds have a broad range. However, pollutants and tree loss can become a major breeding capacity issue in the future. They can be found in wetland habitats like lagoons, rivers, dams, and lakes throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. They prefer foraging in discreet locations with plentiful vegetation, abundant fish, and where the water is shallow. Read more about my first sighting of the pink backed pelican.



 

Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(Rare visitors the Western Cape, Pink-Backed Pelicans seen on the northern end of Zeekoevlei)





Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(The fence that separated us from the Pelicans, no problem we made a plan)


My First Sighting of the Pink-Backed Pelican


 



My excitement grew as I was thinking about the prospect of recording my 450th bird seen in South Africa. We were going to see the rare pink backed pelican at first light. This bird was recently spotted by Paul Rollinson on 21 August 2021 at the Northern end of Zeekoevlei. When the broadcast came through on our rare bird telegram group, it was impossible to race back to Cape Town, as we were too far out of range. Instead, we were busy spotting another special bird, the Dwarf Bittern (Ixobrychus sturmii), at Sandbaai in Hermanus.


 


Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(How disgusting! the pollution was everywhere, picture-perfect, ruined by rubbish all over) 



Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(The Great White Pelicans on the left dwarfing the Pink-Backed Pelicans to the right)


The Big Day


Once we arrived at the pin location at dawn, it was quite challenging to work out how to gain access to the area where the bird was, since the gates were locked. Not wanting to miss the golden hour of first light, we decided to enter via the water Calvert. After embarking on a short mission through the reeds and mud, we could finally spot some birds. After frantically scanning through the array of birds, we finally spotted a single pink backed pelican about 200 meters away, to the left from where we entered.


Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(Rare visitors the Western Cape, Pink-Backed Pelicans seen on the northern end of Zeekoevlei)


Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(The Great White Pelicans on the left dwarfing the Pink-Backed Pelicans to the right)


We were unsure at first whether the bird was indeed our target bird since it was asleep. However, when it lifted its head, it was confirmed. We are looking at the pink backed pelican. We were overjoyed with the confirmation of this surprising find in the Western Cape. The only other documented sighting was at Island Lake on the Garden route, many years ago, in January 1981. Forty years have passed before unlocking this provincial phenomenon for many. Happy to enjoy this special moment with fellow birder John Graham.


 


Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(The Dwarf Bittern out in the open, but only for a while, a few images later and he was gone)



Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(Helped this group and a few others tick this one-off)


Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(We arrived and the Dwarf Bittern was sitting out in the open, but gone right after the first few photos taken)


Interesting Facts About the Pink-Backed Pelican 


Pink-backed pelicans are among the world’s biggest flying birds. Their take-off can be a bit wobbly. However, once they are in flight, they can effortlessly fly alternating glides and wing beats.


They predominantly feed on fish.


Larger pink backed pelicans can eat up to 400 grams of fish; however, they generally eat those weighing about 80 to 290 grams.


A Pink-Backed pelican feeds by plunging its head under the water surface, scooping water and fish. The water exits through the bill’s tip, and the fish gets swallowed whole.


Like its cousin, the pink backed pelican is a robust eater and can consume up to a whopping 1200 grams of fish per day.


They typically forage in groups. Then, they hunt on their own.


When pink backed pelicans fly with a flock, they use a slanting line formation to lower air friction, taking turns to be in from when the leader gets tired.



Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds

(The Dwarf Bittern out in the open, but only for a while, a few images later and he was gone)


Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds
(waiting for the Dwarf Bittern to come out from his hiding spot)



Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds

(The Dwarf Bittern out in the open, but only for a while, a few images later and he was gone)


 

I hope you enjoyed reading about my first sighting of the rare Pink-Backed pelican and Dwarf Bittern. This find was a rewarding and enjoyable experience, and I am overjoyed that I was fortunate enough to add it to my list of bird sightings in Southern Africa. 






Pink-Backed Pelican, Dwarf bittern, Hermanus, sandbaai, Zeekoevlei, birds, rare birds

(The Dwarf Bittern out in the open, but only for a while, a few images later and he was gone)