Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus)

Also known as: Pelecanus philippensis crispus
  
Spanish: Pelícano Ceñudo, Pelícano Rizado
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPelecaniformes
FamilyPelecanidae
GenusPelecanus (1)
SizeLength: 160 – 180 cm (2)

The dalmatian pelican is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1) and is listed on Appendix I of CITES (3). It is also listed on Appendices I and II of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS or Bonn Convention) (4) and on Appendix II of the Berne Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (5). It is listed on Annex I of the EC Birds Directive (6).

Stunning, silvery-white plumage adorns this large pelican during the breeding season, contrasting with the rubbery orange-red pouch beneath the bill, as well as to the yellow to purple bare skin around the eyes. A thick crest of silver feathers on the nape adds to the luxurious look of this impressive bird. The undersides of the wings are pale grey, darkening towards the ends. As the breeding season progresses, the pouch fades to yellow, and during the winter the plumage loses its silvery sheen, appearing whitish or grey. The dalmatian pelican has a range of vocalisations including barks, hisses and grunts (2).

The dalmatian pelican has two main populations. The first breeds in Eastern Europe and winters in the eastern Mediterranean region, whilst the second breeds in Russia and central Asia and winters in Iran, Iraq and the Indian subcontinent (2).

Breeds amongst the reed beds or in the open on islands in river deltas and coastal lagoons. The dalmatian pelican is also found at inland, freshwater wetlands (2).

Foraging close to roosting grounds, the dalmatian pelican fishes in the morning and late afternoon. It may feed alone, or in cooperative groups, sweeping the bill underwater for eels, mullet, gobies, shrimps, worms, beetles, prawns, catfish and other small fish. Whilst swimming, this pelican plunges its head beneath the surface to check for prey. Famous for the large pouch on the throat under the lower half of the bill, the pelican does not always eat as it fishes, instead filling the pouch for later consumption (7).

Breeding begins in March and April in the western part of the range, but varies geographically. Nest sites are found in areas with plentiful fish and vegetation, and nests are constructed from reeds, grass, and sticks, fastened together with droppings (7). Between two and four eggs are laid and incubated for 31 days (7) (8). The young pelicans gather in ‘pods’ after six weeks, and fledge at 75 to 85 days of age (7) (8). They are sexually mature at three to four years (7).

Declines in the past have been due to wetland drainage, shooting, and persecution by fishermen who believe that the dalmatian pelican competes with them for food. Fishermen continue to threaten this bird only in a few areas, as does disturbance from tourists. Currently, habitat degradation from wetland alteration and water pollution are serious threats, which are compounded by over-exploitation of fish stocks by the fishing industry and hunting by Mongolian livestock herders. The bill of the pelican is traditionally used by the Mongolian nomads as a pouch (2).

Conservation efforts have been successful in controlling some of the more important threats in Europe. Actions include marking and removing power lines, providing breeding platforms in Turkey and Bulgaria and rafts in Greece, as well as guarding key sites. A European action plan was produced in 1996. Continued action is necessary, including the sustainable management of wetlands, complete legal protection of dalmatian pelicans and a halt to the traditional Mongolian use for the pelican bill (2).

For further information on the dalmatian pelican see:

Authenticated (05/12/2006) by Dr. Alain Crivelli, Chair of the IUCN Pelican Specialist Group.
http://www.wetlands.org/specialistgroups/en/listmenu.aspx?id=24c5a51d-27f7-411c-a5ca-9d5db2b505f3

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. BirdLife International (April, 2005)
    http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/search/species_search.html?action=SpcHTMDetails.asp&sid=3811&m=0
  3. CITES (April, 2005)
    http://www.cites.org
  4. Global Register of Migratory Species (March, 2008)
    http://www.groms.de/
  5. Berne Convention (April, 2005)
    http://www.jiwlp.com/contents/bern.pdf
  6. EC Birds Directive (April, 2005)
    http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-1373
  7. BirdLife International. (2001) Threatened Birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book. BirdLife International, Cambridge, UK.
  8. Crivelli, A. (2006) Pers. comm.