Eastern White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus)
Status: No special status.
Characteristics: Sociable, outgoing.
Area: Europe, Africa, Asia.
Offspring: 1 to 3 eggs.
· This pelican is also called African White Pelican, Roseate Pelican, Great White Pelican, Old World Pelican or European White Pelican.
· The eastern white pelican is featured on 24 stamps around the world.
· Dalmatian pelicans are endangered due to loss of habitat in southern Eurasia.
· Pelicans are good swimmers and have four toes connected by webbing.
White pelicans are social birds that live in large colonies. They sometimes hunt alone, but often hunt in groups of 8 to 12, unlike many other birds, who exclusively hunt alone. White pelicans fly in a V-shaped formation, low over the water’s surface and when they find a school of fish swimming close to the surface, they flap their wings and probe into the water with their beaks to drive the fish to shallow water, where the pelicans scoop up as many as they can with their expandable bills. A white pelican can hold over three gallons of food and water in its bill. It strains the water out before swallowing the fish whole. The diet of a white pelican is almost entirely fish, including carp and cichlids. On the coast of Africa, they sometimes feed on the eggs and chicks of the cormorant. A pelican’s daily fish requirement is only two to four fish, so they’re usually finished feeding by early morning and spend the rest of the day sunbathing, resting, or preening.
The eastern white pelican is found in the Danube delta of Eastern Europe, selected areas in Asia such as India and Vietnam, as well as in Africa, south of the Sahara. Pelicans can be found in freshwater lakes, swamps and marshes.
Once a pair is formed, the male brings sticks and grass to the female, who builds the nest, which may be on the ground on in a tree, within a large pelican colony near the water. The parents take turns incubating the eggs for four to five weeks, until the eggs hatch. Most clutches contain only two eggs, and the average rate for a chick to reach adulthood is slightly better than half, so usually only one of the two survive. The chicks are born without feathers, and their eyes are closed. Both parents bring food to them—first dribbling food into the chicks’ mouths, and later, regurgitating food into their mouths when the youngsters put their beaks inside their parents’ throats. The chicks soon grow a soft downy coat, and those in ground nests may begin exploring outside of the nest approximately one month after hatching. Tree nest pelican chicks don’t leave the nest for more than two months, until they’re ready to fly. Because pelicans are such social birds, the youngsters form large groups to socialize with others of their own age. White pelicans reach full maturity between three and four years of age.