Bird Families

Peruvian Pelican / Pelecanus thagus


Pelicans are among the largest waterfowl. Despite their impressive size, these birds are able to fly up to a height of three kilometers. Although they belong to the category of exotic and the geography of their residence is very wide, they can be found on all continents of the globe in tropical and subtropical zones, except for Antarctica.

Pelican (pink-backed species) and two herons in Tanzania. Pelican and heron in Tanzania.


The physique of pelicans is massive and rather awkward - it is long, varies from 1.3 m to 1.8 m, and the weight, depending on the species, ranges from 7 to 14 kg. They have a long beak, neck and wings, and their legs are very short. It is worth looking at a photo of a pelican and all attention is immediately riveted to the throat sac located on the underside of the beak. It is a stretchable leather bag, which is the main assistant in fishing, the bird's beak is also unusual - very powerful and heavy with a hook at the end, it can reach more than 45 cm in length.

Pelicans' feathers do not fit tightly to the body, so they are prone to getting wet quickly, because of this, pelicans often "squeeze" water out of them with their beak with their beak. The color is usually white or white-gray, with a pink tinge. During the mating season, the beak and other parts of the head without feathers are colored brightly.

Sexual dimorphism in birds is weakly expressed - females are slightly smaller in size than males and dimmer than males.

Australian pelican on the water.

Nutrition and behavior

Pelicans are birds of prey, they feed mainly on fish, less often they catch frogs, toads, crustaceans, small turtles. On a day, this bird is needed to feed about a kilogram of fish.

They snatch the fish out of the water, lowering their head into the reservoir. After the bird has caught the fish, it strains water from the five-liter throat bag with its beak and swallows the prey. They can also hunt collectively - they start flapping their wings on the water and knocking out a frightened fish in shallow water with their beak. Quite often, gulls and cormorants take part in such a hunt.

If you take a photo of pelicans on land, you will immediately see that they are very clumsy on the ground, but as soon as they take off, and they do it without a run, they fly surprisingly easily and quickly, during the flight they can glide on spread wings.

A curly-haired pelican with a wide open beak. An American White Pelican caught a catfish.


Birds become ready for breeding at the age of three years. Almost all pelican species mate for only one season. Nests are built on the ground, in reed creases, on large trees, rocks. The female builds the nest, and the male looks for the material. Quite often, several pairs of pelicans build a common nest.

Usually in clutch there are up to three eggs of yellow or bluish color with rough shell. The female incubates the eggs, the male replaces her only when the female goes for food. After 30 - 42, newborn pelican chicks are born. Chicks are born absolutely naked and blind, the fluff appears only by the tenth day. Both parents are responsible for feeding - they regurgitate partially digested food from the stomach and feed the chicks directly from the beak. Birds start on the wing rather late - at 70 - 75 days. Among chicks, there is high food competition, as a rule, only one chick survives.

Dalmatian pelican chick. American Brown Pelican in a nest with a cub.

Australian pelican

Australian Pelican - lives in Australia, New Zealand and New Guinea. Despite the small size of 4-7 kg, a bird can eat up to 8 kg of food per day. An interesting fact is that the male during the mating season can "take care" of the female for up to 8 months until she gives her consent.

Australian pelican in flight. Australian pelican on the pier. Australian pelican. Australian pelican in flight. The Australian pelican shows the size of the bag. A flock of Australian pelicans on the coast.A pair of Australian pelicans on the water. Australian pelicans on the shore.

Curly pelican

Dalmatian Pelican - These pelicans are migratory birds, usually settling near hard-to-reach lakes, in the lower reaches and deltas of rivers with a large amount of vegetation. The people call the bird "baba-bird". Couples of this kind remain faithful to each other all their lives.

A pair of Dalmatian Pelicans on the water at Colchester Zoo, Essex, Britain. Dalmatian pelican with caught fish in its beak, Herberstein Zoo, Austria. A curly-haired pelican in flight. A curly-haired pelican in flight. Curly pelican. Curly pelican. Curly pelican. Curly Pelican. The Dalmatian Pelican catches fish on the fly. Curly pelican on the water. Curly pelican. Curly pelican. Curly pelican.

American White Pelican

American White Pelican - These birds can be found in Canada and the United States. Another name for these birds is "rhino pelican", because of the outgrowth in the middle of the beak, which appears in them only during the mating season.

American White Pelican. An American White Pelican caught a large fish. American White Pelican in flight over water. American White Pelican in the sky.

American brown pelican

American Brown Pelican - representatives of this species are the smallest pelicans, their weight is about 4.5 kg, and the body length is no more than 137 cm. The image of this bird adorns the flag of American Louisiana and the coat of arms of Barbados.

American Brown Pelican in flight. American Brown Pelican on the water. The American Brown Pelican plays with the caught fish. American Brown Pelican in an attack flight

Pink pelican

Pink pelican - the weight of a bird can reach 15 kg. In adult birds, the plumage has a white-pink tint, especially bright on the abdomen during the mating season, the colors become brighter. These birds are listed in the Red Book as an endangered species.

Pink pelican. Pink pelican. Pink pelican. A flock of pink pelicans in Namibia.

Gray pelican

The gray pelican is a rare member of the pelicon family. Another name is "Filipino pelicans", although you will not find birds on these islands anymore, they live in the south and southeast of Asia. The peculiarity of this species is that they build nests only in large trees.

Gray pelican. Gray pelicans nest on an artificial platform in Uppalapada, Andhra Pradesh.

Pink-backed pelican

Pink-backed pelican - these birds are very similar to pink pelicans, however, they are slightly smaller in size and during the mating season they have a pink-red tint on their backs, moreover, their head is covered with a lot of curls.

Pink-backed pelican. Pink-backed pelican. Throat sac of a pink-backed pelican with a raised beak. Throat sac of a pink-backed pelican with a lowered beak.

Pelican Pelecanus thagus

Pelecanus thagus - for a long time these birds belonged to the Brown Pelicans, and only recently were they assigned to a separate species. Only us nest on the rocky coast, unlike other species, they do not build nests on trees.


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Pelikany(Pelecanus Linnaeus, 1758) - a genus of birds, the only one in the Pelican family (Pelecanidae Rafinesque, 1815) of the Pelican order. Includes 8 types. Pelicans are distributed sporadically, in the temperate and tropical zones of all continents, except for Antarctica.There are 2 species in Russia: pink (Pelecanus onocrotalus) and curly pelican (Pelecanus crispus). Types of temperate latitudes are migratory.


The largest birds in their order: body length 130-180 cm, weight 7-14 kg. The appearance is very characteristic: a clumsy, massive body, large wings, short and thick legs with a wide membrane between the toes, a short rounded tail. The neck is long. The beak is long, up to 47 cm, with a hook at the end. On the underside of the beak there is a highly elastic leather bag used for fishing.

The plumage of pelicans is loose, loosely attached to the body. Feathers get wet quickly, and birds often "squeeze" them with their beak. The color is light - white, grayish, often with a pink tint. Flight feathers are usually dark. The beak and bare areas of the "face" are brightly colored, especially during the mating season. The feathers on the back of the head often form a crest. Females are smaller and dimmer than males, juvenile pelicans are painted dirty brown or gray. The voice during nesting is a dull roar, the rest of the time the pelicans are silent.

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Lifestyle and nutrition

Pelicans are inhabitants of shallow sea waters, shallow fresh and salt lakes, and the mouths of large rivers. They walk awkwardly, but they fly and swim well, they can soar for a long time. They rise from the water after the run. In flight, because of the long heavy beak, they hold their neck with the letter S, like herons and marabou. Because of the light skeleton and the air-bubble layer under the skin, they cannot dive, therefore, the main food, fish, is obtained in shallow water. Only American species are capable of diving by falling into the water from a height.

They feed mainly on fish, which they catch by lowering their head into the water and picking up fish that have risen to the surface with their beak. They arrange collective hunts - lined up in a semicircle, pelicans start flapping on the water with their wings and beaks and displace the frightened fish in shallow water. Sometimes cormorants, gulls, toadstools, and terns take part in joint hunts. Having caught a fish, the pelican drains water from the throat sac (up to 5 liters) through its beak and swallows the prey. He eats more than a kilogram of fish per day.

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• Spectacled pelican, Pelecanus conspicillatus.

• Dalmatian Pelican, Pelecanus crispus.

• Red-billed pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos.

• Brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis.

• Pink pelican, Pelecanus onocrotalus.

• Gray pelican, Pelecanus philippensis. A native of southern Asia, breeds from India to Indonesia, predominantly in shallow lakes. Builds nests in trees. It is a medium-sized pelican with a grayish chest and tail. In the mating season, gray spots appear on its beak.

• Reddish pelican, Pelecanus rufescens. Breeds in lakes and marshes throughout sub-Saharan Africa, as well as in South Arabia and Madagascar. It is very similar to the pink pelican, but a little smaller, darker and a pinkish-red tint appears on its back during the mating season. Nesting colonies of reddish pelicans are located on trees, most often on baobabs. For some reason, they prefer to build their nests in trees far from water, and the birds have to bring food to the chicks from afar. Their nests are often mixed with the nests of marabou or other heron birds.

• Peruvian pelican, Pelecanus thagus. A native of South America, from Fr. Lobos de Tierra in Peru to Chile. The color is darkish. They feed on fish, mainly Peruvian anchovies. Able to dive for prey, like a brown pelican.

Nesting. Reproduction

Pairs of pelicans are formed only for one season. Pelicans nest in colonies numbering hundreds of pairs, often together with other near-water birds, but even in the non-nesting period they keep in groups. Large species build nests on the ground or in reed creases in the form of tall piles of branches and plant debris. Small ones willingly nest on trees if they grow near water bodies. The female is engaged in the construction of the nest, the male brings material. Often, several pairs of pelicans build a common nest.

In clutch there are 2-3 bluish or yellowish eggs with loose rough shell. Incubation lasts 30-42 days, the female incubates more intensively than the male.Chicks hatch blind and naked, dress in fluff on the 8-10th day, and become capable of flight on the 70-75th day of life. The young are fed by both parents, regurgitating fish from their stomachs. The mortality rate of chicks is very high: more than half of the hatched chicks die from predators, hunger and weather conditions.