The Great White Pelican

Pelecanus onocrotalus Linnaeus, 1758

Pelecanus minor Rupp.; Reiser, 1894: 191.

Order Pelecaniformes

Family Pelecanidae

Conservation status: in Bulgaria: Extinct EX, BDA-III; International: BeC-II; BoC-I, II; ECS-Spec 3; BD-I.

General distribution. A species of the Old World breeding in the Aral Sea, Lake Balkhash, Asia Minor, the Persian Gulf, Indochina, Central and Southern Africa. In Europe there are isolated breeding colonies in the deltas of the rivers Volga and Danube, the lakes Manich, Manich-Gudilo and Prespa, with a total number of about 4 000 pairs.

Distribution and abundance in Bulgaria. Currently passage migrant and partly wintering species. In the past it used to breed in two colonies in the Straldzha Swamp (until the 1930s) and Mandrensko Lake (until the middle of the 20th century) [1, 2]. After 1985, two breeding attempts were registered in the colony of Dalmatian Pelicans in Srebarna Lake, the second one being successful [2, 3]. During migration, it is mainly observed along the Black Sea coast [4, 5, 6], and less often within the country [7, 8]. Found in the region of Burgas Bay between 10 August and 30 October are 15 000 migrating birds, and at most 20 000 [2], at the average, and in recent years there has been a tendency for an increase of up to 23 000 individuals. [9]. In the winter, the largest number was recorded in the Burgas lakes (Mandrensko Ezero 69 individuals, in January 1988, and Vaya 20 individuals in January 2000) [10].

Habitats. Freshwater lakes and marshes with large reedbeds, reservoirs, small and large fish farms. In the winter mainly in brackish wetlands near the shore.

Biology. It forms large breeding colonies in spacious and almost inaccessible reedbeds in lakes and deltas of rivers; it migrates in flocks of up to 4 000 individuals. It feeds exclusively on fish.

Similar species. The Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus).

Negative factors. Destruction and degradation of habitats, including pollution of wetlands with oil products, direct persecution by man.

Conservation measures taken. Protected species since 1962, included in the Red Data Book of the Republic of Bulgaria (1985) as an extinct species [1]; intensive studies on its migration and wintering have been carried out [9, 10], artificial platforms were built in Vaya Lake and an artificial island with an area of 1 600 m2 in Atanasovsko Ezero lake for attracting birds to nest [9]. The preparation of a national plan is underway for its preservation and for declaring Mandrensko Ezero lake (one of the most important sites for resting and spending nights during migration and wintering) as a protected territory and a Ramsar site.

References. 1. Michev, 1985; 2. Simeonov et al., 1990; 3. Simeonov et al., 2001; 4. Crivelli et al., 1991;5. Crivelli et al., 2000; 6. Milchev, Kovachev, 2000; 7. Simeonov et al., 1984; 8. Stoyanov, 2003; 9. Dimitrov et al., 2005; 10. Michev, Profirov, 2003.

Author: Tanyo Michev

Great White Pelican (distribution map)

Great White Pelican (drawing)