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A photo of a Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus)
Dalmatian Pelican

Dalmatian Pelican

Pelecanus crispus

The Dalmatian Pelican, Pelecanus crispus, stands as a majestic figure among birds, holding the title of the largest pelican species and potentially the world's heftiest freshwater avian. Its impressive wingspan competes with that of the great albatrosses, and in flight, its flocks exhibit a mesmerizing, synchronized grace. This pelican's plumage lacks the pinkish hues seen in some relatives, instead boasting a silvery-white elegance, with a unique mane of curly feathers adorning its head and neck.

Identification Tips

Adult Dalmatian Pelicans are distinguished by their silvery-white plumage, which transitions to a more subdued grey in the winter months. The species is characterized by curly nape feathers, grey legs, and a bill that shifts from a vibrant orange-red lower mandible during breeding season to a muted yellow in the off-season. In flight, their wings are a solid grey with black tips, a trait that sets them apart from other pelicans.

Habitat

These pelicans favor a variety of wetland habitats, including lakes, rivers, deltas, and estuaries. Unlike their close relatives, they are not strictly confined to lowland areas and can be found nesting at various elevations.

Distribution

The Dalmatian Pelican's range extends across Central Eurasia, from the Mediterranean to the Taiwan Strait, and from the Persian Gulf to Siberia. They are considered short-to-medium-distance migrants, moving between breeding and overwintering locales.

Behaviour

Dalmatian Pelicans are less social than other pelican species, often nesting in smaller groups or even solitarily. They exhibit a strong fidelity to traditional breeding sites, constructing their nests on islands or dense vegetation mats. Their flight is characterized by an elegant soaring motion, with the entire flock moving in unison.

Song & Calls

Typically silent outside of the breeding season, Dalmatian Pelicans can become quite vocal when courting, producing a range of deep, guttural sounds including barks, hisses, and grunts.

Breeding

Breeding season sees these birds returning to familiar sites, where they build crude nests of vegetation. The Dalmatian Pelican lays one to six eggs, with two being most common. Both parents share incubation duties, and the young fledge at around 85 days old.

Similar Species

The Great White Pelican shares a similar size range but can be differentiated by its pure white plumage, larger size sexual dimorphism, and different breeding habits.

Diet and Feeding

Dalmatian Pelicans primarily consume fish, with a daily requirement of around 1,200 grams. They forage alone or in small groups, dipping their heads underwater to scoop up prey with their expansive bill pouches.

Conservation status

The Dalmatian Pelican is classified as Near Threatened, with a population that experienced a significant decline in the 20th century. Conservation efforts, including habitat management and the construction of artificial nesting platforms, have been implemented to stabilize and increase their numbers.

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Pelecanus conspicillatus
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