Eastern White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus)


Class: Aves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family:    Pelecanidae
Size:    Length: 4 to 6 feet  (1.22 to 1.8 m)  Wingspan: 8 to 10 feet (2.4 to 3 m)
Weight: 12 to 33 pounds (5.4 to 15 kg)
Diet: Fish, including carp and cichlids as well as occasionally cormorant eggs and chicks
Distribution: Europe, Africa and Asia
Young:  1 to 3 chicks, once a year
Animal Predators:  Crocodiles and sharks
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Chick
Lifespan: Unknown



·      This pelican is also called “African White Pelican,” “Roseate Pelican,” “Great White Pelican,” “Old World Pelican” or “European White Pelican.”

·      The eastern white pelican is featured on 24 stamps around the world.

·      Dalmatian pelicans are endangered due to loss of habitat in southern Eurasia.

·      Pelicans are good swimmers and have four toes connected by webbing.



Eastern white pelicans are mostly white, with black wing feathers. Their large bill is yellow and blue with a red tip and a bright yellow pouch. Their legs are pink, but their feet are yellow. Females are smaller than males. 



Eastern white pelicans are found in the Danube delta of Eastern Europe, selected areas of Asia such as India and Vietnam, as well as in Africa, south of the Sahara. Pelicans can be found in freshwater lakes, swamps and marshes.


Feeding Habits

White pelicans can hold over three gallons of food and water in their bill. They strain the water out before swallowing the fish whole. Their diets consist almost entirely of fish, including carp and cichlids. On the coast of Africa, they sometimes feed on the eggs and chicks of cormorants. A pelican’s daily fish requirement is only two to four fish, so they are usually finished feeding by early morning and spend the rest of the day sunbathing, resting, or preening.



Eastern white pelicans breed on secluded islands during the spring (Europe and Asia) or all year round (Africa). Once a pair is formed, the male brings sticks and grass to the female, who builds the nest, which may be on the ground on in a tree, within a large pelican colony near the water. The parents take turns incubating the eggs for four to five weeks until the eggs hatch. The chicks are born without feathers, and their eyes closed. Both parents bring food to them, first dribbling food into the chicks’ mouths, and later, regurgitating food into their mouths when the youngsters put their beaks inside their parents’ throats. The chicks soon grow a soft downy coat, and those in ground nests may begin exploring outside of the nest approximately one month after hatching. Tree-nest pelican chicks do not leave the nest for more than two months, until they are ready to fly. Because pelicans are such social birds, the youngsters form large groups with others of their own age. Eastern white pelicans reach full maturity between three and four years of age.



White pelicans are social birds that live in large colonies. They sometimes hunt alone, but often hunt in groups of eight to 12, unlike many other birds that exclusively hunt alone. White pelicans fly in a V-shaped formation low over the water’s surface and when they find a school of fish swimming close to the surface, they flap their wings and probe into the water with their beaks to drive the fish to shallow water, where the pelicans scoop up as many as they can with their expandable bills. 



Eastern white pelicans are not a conservation concern at this time. 







Old World White Pelican Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US