Outback Pelicans

The Australian pelican is built for long-distance travel. One of the largest pelicans in the pelican family, with a light skeleton and a wingspan of over eight feet, it can be airborne all day and deep into the night, riding far and high on rising thermals. When rare weather systems bring heavy rains, huge numbers of Australian pelicans abandon the sea and coastal waters and embark on a mass pilgrimage to a place a thousand miles inland. It’s the last place you would look for one of their kind – the Australian Outback, one of the driest, hottest places on the planet.

They are heading for Lake Eyre, an empty, salt-crusted lake bed that covers an area the size of Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, combined. It lies 50 feet below sea level, making it the lowest point in Australia, a vast drainage basin in the heart of desert. The floods from the rains are headed here, too, filling dry riverbeds with water which will transform this desolate place into pelican heaven. With the water comes a host of new life that offers a feast to the birds – fish and frogs, crustaceans and shrimp. The pelicans settle in at Lake Eyre for as long as the water lasts, to court and breed and raise a new generation in this unlikely sanctuary.

But what exactly triggers their journey? How do they find their way? How do they know what is waiting for them? And where do they go when they leave? NATURE looks for answers to questions researchers are only now beginning to unravel.

  • NoCable

    Please show this again on channel 34.1! I don’t get the channel it’s now broadcasted on (20.1?) and I really miss this show. Now it’s slot is filled with “old people shows” reminiscing about the past, and I really would rather learn about today’s environment than why comedy was so much better years and years ago.

  • cwallen19803

    =>NoCable, Do you realize that your channel is local and this site is global? Your request needs to go to your local PBS station, the one within broadcast range of your TV.

  • T. Fischer

    If you are unable to watch the program when it airs, you can watch it online afterwards. Visit http://video.pbs.org/ and go to the Nature video player.

  • JC223

    This episodes isn’t online. I just searched for it.

  • duha

    um i like the show and im looking forward to it and plazz show it on channel 13.1 thank(my whole family sits together only once a week were all comfortable and we watch nature it kind of brings my whole family together)

  • Terry Olsen

    Why don’t you let us Canadians watch it on the internet. Sometimes we miss it on T.V. and can never get to see the show again.

  • Caroline

    WHO IS THE NARRATOR!!!???????

  • Lee

    Was the show filmed this year (2010-2011) or last year ?
    The rainfall this year was stella and I wondered if it was the reason for multiple broods.
    I really enjoyed the show.

  • Carole

    @Lee: I was wondering the same thing myself; in fact, that’s why I did a search for the show. Wouldn’t surprise me that it was filmed over the past year – plenty of rainfall.

  • Susan Rogers

    This is a great production. Interesting, entertaining and informative. Found the details fascinating especially trying to discern why a sea-going bird heads inland to a hot, arid climate well below sea level. Kudos to the production team and PBS for providing such a great story. While questions remain on the pelican’s motive, the attempt to unravel this mystery was very engaging.

  • Todd Bradley

    Caroline, the Production Credits page says, “NARRATED BY

  • JoAnn The Packer Fan

    We just loved this unusual program. Good thing we have our printed Wisconsin Public Television program guide, as it was not listed on our AT&T U-verse on-screen program guide. (The time slot just indicated, “To Be Announced.”) We DVRd the show by selecting the date and time and it was great to watch it the next day. Wonderful show!

  • Wayne Carlson

    Spectacular! We do tours to Lake Eyre and this year will be stunning. The Lake is 80% full already and the flood waters are yet to arrive. These waters are coming down the Cooper Creek which is almost 100km wide!! First of new water should arrive about Easter and the Pelicans (amongst others) will move in their millions!!

  • Sharon Kahn

    Really interesting show!

  • Georgene Leavitt

    Cool bananas, thanks.

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