THE GREAT WHITE PELICAN

Biological classification

Class (Aves)
Order Pelecaniformes

Family Pelecanidae

                                                      Appearance

The pelican has a white color of plumage with a pink tint. Body length is 140 175cm and the wingspan ranges from 285 to 310 cm. Beak length is 30 40cm, has a large throat pouch used for catching prey and draining water from the scooped up contents before swallowing. Throat pouch and the skin near it have yellow color. Naked skin on the forehead forms rather large node. There is a drooping forelock on the back of the head. There is a yellow spot on the breast. Primitive feathers are black. Legs are pinkish-red. Weight of adult bird reaches 11-13 kg. Males are larger than females but have the same color of plumage.

Habitats and area

Pelicans live on large freshwater and brackish waters of the shallows and thickets of aquatic vegetation. The area of this species covers Southeast Europe, Southwest and Central Asia, Equatorial Africa. In Ukraine pelicans nest in the Black Sea Reserve (Kherson region) and Swan Islands (Crimea).

These birds also nest in the Danube Delta in Romania. From Romania pelicans regularly flight to Ukraine. Adult birds can be found around the Azov-Black Sea coast, and the young birds could often be observed in the northern and central regions during the autumn migration. Pilicans hibernate in South-East Asia and Equatorial Africa.

Diet

Pelicans feed on fish mostly small and medium size. They hunt fish in shallow areas of estuaries and the coast in groups or alone. The pelican's pouch serves simply as a scoop. As the pelican pushes its bill underwater, the lower bill bows out, creating a large pouch which fills with water and fish. As thebird lifts its head, the pouch contracts, forcing out the water but retaining the fish. A group of pelicans will gather in a horseshoe formation in the water to feed together. They dip their bills in unison, creating a circle of open pouches, ready to trap every fish in the area.

Breeding

Pelicans come to Ukraine in February March. Breeding period runs from May to August. Birds that are not breeding live in large flocks of 50 60 individuals during the whole summer. Large numbers of these pelicans breed together in colonies. Both partners build a nest: male brings building material and female puts it. Diameter of the nest reaches 38 cm, height - 8 cm. The female can lay from 1 to 4 eggs in a clutch, with two being the average. The incubation stage lasts for 29 to 36 days. The chicks are naked when they hatch but quickly sprout blackish-brown down. The colony gathers in "pods" around 20 to 25 days after the eggs hatch. The young fledge at about 75 days of age. With sexual maturity attained at 3 to 4 years of age pelicans are changing their plumage.

Pelicans in Kyiv zoo

There are 9 birds. Three of them are 53 years old. Name of one male is Pilya and he was rescued from poachers in 2014.

Our pelicans live with other species in the pond of 3400 sq.m. near the main entrance to the Zoo. Birds could be seen in the pond or on the beach, where they come out to the sun to warm. Sometimes they fly across the low fence and walk among visitors. In winter pelicans lives in a house beside the water. This house is equipped with viewing window so visitors can see pelicans, temperature inside is 10 degrees.

Daily, one bird consumes around 1,5 kg of fish.

THE GREAT WHITE PELICAN