Pelecanus onocrotalus Linnaeus,1758
Common names: Great white pelican, Rosy pelican [En], Pélican blanc [Fr], Roze pelikaan [Nl], Rosapelikan [De], Pellicano commune, pellicano bianco [It], Pelícano común [Es], Ροδοπελεκάνος [Gr], Ak pelikan, Beyaz pelican [Tu]
IUCN Status: LC (Least Concern)
Kerkini Lake, SERRES ● Greece
Description: The great white pelican is a huge bird, with only the Dalmatian pelican averaging larger amongst the pelicans. The wingspan can range from 226 to 360 cm, with the latter measurement the largest recorded among extant flying animals outside of the great albatrosses. The total length of the great white pelican can range from 140 to 180 cm, with the enormous bill comprising 28.9 to 47.1 cm of that length.
It differs from the Dalmatian pelican by its pure white, rather than greyish-white, plumage, a bare pink facial patch around the eye and pinkish legs. Males are larger than females, and have a long beak that grows in a downwards arc, as opposed to the shorter, straighter beak of the female. In breeding condition the male has pinkish skin on its face and the female has orangey skin.
Immature great white pelicans are grey and have dark flight feathers.
In flight, it is an elegant soaring bird, with the head held close to and aligned with the body by a downward bend in the neck.
The great white pelican is well adapted for aquatic life. The short strong legs and webbed feet propel it in water and aid the rather awkward takeoff from the water surface. Once aloft, the long-winged pelicans are powerful fliers, however, and often travel in spectacular V-formation groups.
Biology: The diet of the great white pelican consists mainly of fish. The pelicans leave their roost to feed early in the mornings and may fly over 100 km in search of food. Each pelican needs from 0.9 to 1.4 kg of fish every day. Fish targeted are usually fairly large ones, in the 500–600 g weight range. Common carp are preferred in Europe, mullet are preferred in China and Aphanius dispar (a carp) are preferred in India. In Africa, often the commonest cichlids, including many species in the Haplochromis and Tilapia genera, seem to be preferred. The pelican's pouch serves simply as a scoop. As the pelican pushes its bill underwater, the lower bill bows out, creating a large pouch which fills with water and fish. As the bird lifts its head, the pouch contracts, forcing out the water but retaining the fish. A group of 6 to 8 great white pelicans will gather in a horseshoe formation in the water to feed together. They dip their bills in unison, creating a circle of open pouches, ready to trap every fish in the area. Most feeding is cooperative and done in groups, especially in shallow waters where fish schools can be corralled easily, though these pelicans may forage alone as well.
Pelicans are not restricted to fish, however, and are often opportunistic foragers. In some situations they eat chicks of other birds. Great white pelicans also eat crustaceans, tadpoles and even turtles. During periods of starvation, pelicans also eat seagulls and ducklings.
The breeding season commences in April or May in temperate zones, is essentially all year around in Africa and runs February through April in India. Large numbers of these pelicans breed together in colonies. The female can lay from 1 to 4 eggs in a clutch, with two being the average. Nest locations are variable. Some populations making stick nests in trees but a majority, including all those who breed in Africa, nest exclusively in scrapes on the ground lined with grass, sticks, feathers and other material. The young are cared for by both parents. The incubation stage lasts for 29 to 36 days. The chicks are naked when they hatch but quickly sprout blackish-brown down. The colony gathers in “pods” around 20 to 25 days after the eggs hatch. The young fledge at 65 to 75 days of age. Around 64% of young successful reach adulthood, with sexual maturity attained at 3 to 4 years of age.
Habitat: Great white pelicans are usually birds found in and around shallow, (seasonally or tropical) warm fresh water. In Eurasia, fresh or brackish waters may be inhabited and the pelicans may be found in lakes, deltas, lagoons and marshes, usually with dense reed beds nearby for nesting purposes. These are birds that are found mostly in lowlands, though in East Africa and Nepal may be found living at elevations of up to 1,372 m.
Distribution: Well scattered groups of breeding pelicans occur through Eurasia from the eastern Mediterranean to Vietnam. Sedentary populations are found year-round in Africa, south of the Sahara Desert although these are patchy. In Africa, great white pelicans occur mainly around freshwater and alkaline lakes and may also be found in coastal, estuarine areas.
Migratory populations are found from Eastern Europe to Kazakhstan during the breeding season. More than 50% of Eurasian great white pelicans breed in the Danube Delta in Romania. The pelicans arrive in the Danube in late March or early April and depart after breeding from September to late November. Wintering locations for European pelicans are not exactly known but wintering birds may occur in northeastern Africa through Iraq to north India, with a particularly large number of breeders from Asia wintering around Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Wikipedia, Great white pelican