Dalmatian Pelican Facts: Animals of Eurasia

This Dalmatian Pelican gets up close and personal with the camera in the Lake Kerkini area of Greece.
This Dalmatian Pelican gets up close and personal with the camera in the Lake Kerkini area of Greece.

5. Physical Description

The Dalmatian Pelican (scientific name Pelecanus crispus) is an enormous bird native to such Asian countries as China and India, as well as to the southern regions of Europe, especially Greece. It is white in color, with silvery white feathers. These massive birds can grow up to 70 inches in height, 33 pounds in weight, and 9 feet in wingspan. These physical characteristics make the Dalmatian Pelican one of the largest living birds known to man, the largest of the species of Pelican, and a competitor with Kori and Great bustards and Great swans for the title of being the heaviest among all flying birds in the world as well. Its bill is colored yellow during the winter season, as opposed to orange-red and yellow during the breeding season.

4. Diet

The Dalmatian Pelican survives entirely on a diet composed of different types of fish, such as common rudds, catfishes, European perches, and eels. The Northern pike, Alburnus belvica, roach, mullet, perch, and gobies are also particular favorites of the Dalmatian pelican, which they forage for either alone or alongside others. These birds rarely hunt in groups with more than 3 individuals, preferring to find their food following their own preferred pace without distractions being provided by the presence of competition. This type of pelican makes a ducking movement of its head underwater when it scoops up fish, along with large amounts of water which is later dumped through the pouches located at the sides. Other food sources for the Dalmatian Pelican include tiny water birds, eggs, worms, crustaceans, and beetles.

3. Habitat and Range

The Dalmatian Pelicans form large colonies in Greece, as well as in some parts of Eastern Europe and Asia, specifically in such countries as India, China, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, the Ukraine, Serbia, Mongolia, and Romania. Like all animals, these birds are being threatened by careless human activities, especially when they are being killed by fishermen, or when their natural habitats are being destroyed, polluted, altered, and otherwise overexploited. These birds are commonly found thriving near where their food sources are, which are typically within lakes, streams, rivers, and estuaries. During the winter, they have been known to stay on ice free bodies of water located in India and other parts of Europe. At present, only 20,000 individuals have been recorded as being alive, which shows that their population has greatly declined over the past three decades. As such, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's most recent Red List of Threatened Species has classified Dalmatian Pelicans as a "Vulnerable" species.

2. Behavior

Dalmatian Pelicans are able to migrate short distances, usually over into Asia, where many of their favorite food sources are found abundant and thriving. Being excellent swimmers, they are also great fliers, and able to withstand temperatures quite different from those climes of their normal habitats. They can fish for food with other pelicans, although the majority of the time they will hunt alone in areas where they are the only predators.

1. Reproduction

Dalmatian Pelicans prefer to nest in areas that have not been encroached upon by humans, particularly favoring islands and river deltas. When nesting, Dalmatian Pelicans do so without the company of other birds. The female is tasked with the incubation of the one to six eggs that she has lain, while the male goes out in search of food. Caring for the young ones is carried out by both the male and the female. This lasts up until they are 12 weeks old, at which time they’re able to fly out of their parents' nests and find their own food. Under certain circumstances, however, Dalmatian pelicans may choose to nest in colonies, in which case as many as 250 pairs may be found breeding in one single area.


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