Recently installed remote-access cameras have allayed fears that feral mice were eating newly hatched pelican chicks at a significant breeding colony in South Australia’s Coorong.

Key points:

  • Coorong National Park rangers are relieved to learn feral mice are not eating pelican chicks
  • Remote-access cameras have been installed to monitor a breeding colony over summer
  • The site is one of the most significant pelican breeding colonies in South Australia

Coorong National Park rangers were concerned by the impact the mice could have on the pelican colony, so they installed cameras to monitor the remote island site over the summer breeding season.

Ranger in charge John Gitsham said “alarm bells went off” last year.

North Pelican Island in the Coorong National Park is home to one of the largest pelican breeding colonies in South Australia.(Supplied: National Parks and Wildlife Service SA)

“[We thought] well, what impact is this going to have on the pelicans, or is [this] having on the pelicans, and what will the impact [be] this season?”

Mr Gitsham said the pests’ presence on the island “could have been a complete disaster”.

He said rats and mice travelled on ships and, as explorers and settlers moved around the world, they were transported to new lands over the centuries.

The cameras were installed to determine whether the mice were attacking the pelican chicks, eating pelican eggs, or affecting the parent birds in any way.

Mr Gitsham says the North Pelican Island colony has seen about 1,000 adult pelicans breeding this summer.(Supplied: National Parks and Wildlife Service SA)

As a result, the thousands of pelicans breeding on the Coorong’s North Pelican Island have been watched closely over the past few months.

“We’ve seen no evidence of the mice causing any issues,” Mr Gitsham said.

Mr Gitsham said his team was greatly relieved by the results of the monitoring.

“The mice were not having any negative effect — in actual fact the pelicans weren’t even using the mice as an alternative food source, they just ignored them,” he said.

Coorong National Park ranger in charge John Gitsham with fellow ranger Joe Koolmatrie on North Pelican Island.(Supplied: John Gitsham)

Mr Gitsham said other birds were feeding on the mice on the island and they were not in plague proportions as had been feared.

The monitoring is expected to continue until the end of the pelican breeding season at the end of summer.

The three recently installed cameras have allowed rangers to monitor the birds round the clock.(Supplied: National Parks and Wildlife Service SA)