Dalmation Pelican

The Dalmatian Pelican is the largest of the 8 species of Pelican found in the world and can reach a weight of 15kg and has an enormous wingspan close to 4 metres. This also makes it one of the largest freshwater birds in the world in terms of weight, similar to the largest male swans.

The Dalmatian pelican is found in large lakes, rivers, river deltas and estuaries. Compared to the great white pelican, the Dalmatian does not just breed in lowland areas and will nest in suitable wetlands with many elevations. It is less opportunistic in breeding habitat selection than the great white, preferring to return to a traditional breeding site year after year, unless it becomes degraded or polluted. During the winter, Dalmatian pelicans usually stay on ice-free lakes in Europe or jheels (seasonal lakes) in mainland India. They also visit, typically during winter, inshore areas along sheltered coasts for feeding.

The Dalmatian Pelican feeds almost entirely on fish and some of its favourite catch are, Carp, Roach, Rudd, Perch and Catfish. This species of pelican requires around 1.2 kilos of fish per day and can take locally abundant smaller fish such as gobies, but usually chooses larger fish as shown above. It usually forages alone or in groups of two or three birds. It normally swims along, placidly and slowly, until it quickly dunks its head underwater and scoops the fish out, along with great masses of water. The water is dumped out of the sides of the pouch and the fish is swallowed. The Dalmatian pelican is not as sociable as other pelicans and nests in relatively small groups or sometimes may even nest alone.

Breeding commences in March or April, about a month before the great white pelican breeds. The Dalmatian pelican lays a clutch of one to six eggs, with two eggs being the normal range. The incubation period last around a month and they will fledge after 3 months. With their nesting sites often being islands in the middle of lakes or dense reed beds – which they flatten to make the nest – the chicks do not suffer heavy predation. Although both Golden Jackals, other canids like foxes and even large gulls can affect reproduction rates at key nesting sites.