Just a few hundred yards from the gorilla research camp is a small, mysterious, swampy island floating in the lagoon, uninhabited by humans. The Pink-backed Pelicans dream nesting home...
These superbly characterful looking water birds remain on or near the island for most of the year.
They use the same sturdy yet lumpy looking nests over & over again, that is until they break, or the trees can no longer hold the birds weight.
Nests are made of various local sticks that the adults collect from the nearby gorilla inhabited terrain. Often many nest in the same tree, giving it a permanently heavy gang of close-knit occupants. Colonies can range from 20 to 500 pairs. After seeing these pelicans regularly when passing by the island, I would put my best guess at there being 200 on this island.
This species of Pelican breeds all year round, mostly starting at the end of the rainy season: May / June. Apparently the female lays two to three eggs each time. One photo I have yet to capture is when the chicks feed...they take their parents partially digested fish by plunging their heads deep into the adult's famously huge pouch that looks so big that a chick could easily get lost in there!
With so many fish in the lakes surrounding the island, the pelicans have a handy and constant take-away service at their disposal. A perfect accompaniment to their dream home.
The Iconic Pelican Pouch.
I wonder what it feels like to touch...
Looks like it has the texture of velcro!
Also has similarities to fish gills.
And I just love the head feathers that give the look of of a fancy hairstyle!
The pelican in the photo below was probably not from the island, it seemed to be fishing alone, much further inland, at Akaka camp, in the shallow muddy waters in front of a large swamp. His head feathers remind me of "bedhair"!
Back to the island and there are normally pelicans fishing in the lake. Such as the one below.
Here there is a young pelican in a nest. Not sure of its age. I love the expression of pelican on the far right!
Below is a a typical crowded nest, definitely no social distancing happening here!
The Pink-backed pelicans in Loango are not normally the main reason people come to the park. But, I think we can all agree that they are a beautifully animated addition. Especially for those lucky enough to see them on their island home near the gorilla camp.
I have certainly enjoyed photographing them & still plan on getting that much sought after photo of a young chick feeding from its parent's big wobbly pouch. Watch this space...