Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Great White Pelican

Pelecanus onocrotalus
When we think about birds with massive wingspans, the Albatross comes to mind. But did you know that Pelicans can be just as gigantic? Even though it is the second in average size to the Dalmatian Pelican, the Great White is able to sport a larger wingspan-- close to 12ft!

Great White Pelicans live near shallow bodies of freshwater, and most of the birds are migratory. During the summers they live in slightly cooler parts of Europe and Asia, and during the winter they move to northern Africa, the Middle East, and south Asia. There are a few resident populations as well, and those are found in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Great White Pelican lives its entire life in a large group. They feed, breed, and migrate in colonies. Unsurprisingly with a bill that large, these birds are excellent fishermen, which is good because each birds needs to eat about 3lbs of fish every day. They actually spend very little time hunting every day, and are normally finished by late morning. The Pelicans spend most of their time bathing, preening, and monitoring their territory.

Though the Great White Pelicans are currently listed as being of Least Concern, some populations are declining and Europe. Also, the birds are being forced to move farther and farther away to do their hunting, as human overfishing is affecting their stocks. Humans also hunt the Pelicans themselves-- their pouches are used for tobacco bags, and their skin and meat is also valued.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Europe, Africa, and Asia
Size : Wingspan up to 11.5ft (3.5m), Weight up to 33lbs (15kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Pelecaniformes
Family : Pelecanidae -- Genus : Pelecanus -- Species : P. onocrotalus
Image :  Andrew Massyn

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