Pelecanus onocrotalus 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Aves Pelecaniformes Pelecanidae

Scientific Name: Pelecanus onocrotalus Linnaeus, 1758
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Great White Pelican, White Pelican
French Pélican blanc
Taxonomic Source(s): Cramp, S. and Simmons, K.E.L. (eds). 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-10-01
Assessor(s): BirdLife International
Reviewer(s): Butchart, S. & Symes, A.
Facilitator/Compiler(s): Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Malpas, L.
This species has a very large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend is not known, but the population is not believed to be decreasing sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Countries occurrence:
Afghanistan; Albania; Angola; Armenia; Azerbaijan; Bangladesh; Benin; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Botswana; Bulgaria; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cambodia; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Chad; China; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Côte d'Ivoire; Cyprus; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Gabon; Gambia; Georgia; Ghana; Greece; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; India; Indonesia; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Italy; Japan; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kenya; Korea, Democratic People's Republic of; Korea, Republic of; Kuwait; Kyrgyzstan; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Lebanon; Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of; Malawi; Malaysia; Mali; Mauritania; Mozambique; Myanmar; Namibia; Nepal; Niger; Nigeria; Pakistan; Palestinian Territory, Occupied; Romania; Russian Federation (Central Asian Russia, European Russia); Rwanda; Saudi Arabia; Senegal; Somalia; South Africa; South Sudan; Sudan; Syrian Arab Republic; Tajikistan; Tanzania, United Republic of; Togo; Turkey; Turkmenistan; Uganda; Ukraine; Uzbekistan; Viet Nam; Yemen; Zambia; Zimbabwe
Possibly extinct:
Montenegro; Serbia
Regionally extinct:
Algeria; Austria; Bahrain; Belarus; Croatia; Czech Republic; Denmark; Finland; France; Latvia; Libya; Maldives; Malta; Morocco; Netherlands; Norway; Oman; Poland; Portugal; Slovenia; Spain; Swaziland; Switzerland; Tunisia; United Arab Emirates; Western Sahara
Present - origin uncertain:
Sri Lanka
Additional data:
Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:50500000
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):UnknownExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Continuing decline in number of locations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Upper elevation limit (metres):1372
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:The global population is estimated at 265,000-295,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2015). The European population is estimated at 4,900-5,600 pairs, which equates to 9,700-11,100 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). The population is therefore placed in the band 260,000-300,000 individuals.

Trend Justification:  The overall population trend is uncertain, as some populations are decreasing, while others are increasing, stable, or have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2015). The European population is estimated to be increasing (BirdLife International 2015).
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
Continuing decline in subpopulations:Unknown
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Behaviour Northern populations of this species are fully migratory (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and travel via important stop-over sites (Nelson 2005). Other populations are sedentary, dispersive (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Nelson 2005) or nomadic, flying over land to seek suitable feeding locations (Nelson 2005). The species nests in large colonies (del Hoyo et al. 1992) of 200 to 40,000 pairs (Brown et al. 1982, Snow and Perrins 1998, Nelson 2005) (occasionally with other species such as Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus) (Flint et al. 1984), breeding in the spring in temperate zones, in all months of the year in Africa and from February to April in India (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It usually fishes in flocks (del Hoyo et al. 1992) of 8-12 individuals (Brown et al. 1982) (up to 123) (Johnsgard 1993) and migrates in large flocks of 50-500 individuals (Snow and Perrins 1998). The species regularly flies long distances from breeding or roosting colonies to feed (del Hoyo et al. 1992), mostly fishing in the early-morning and early-evening (Johnsgard 1993). Habitat The species is associated with relatively large, warm, shallow fresh, brackish, alkaline or saline lakes, lagoons (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Johnsgard 1993), marshes (del Hoyo et al. 1992), broad rivers (Johnsgard 1993), deltas (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Johnsgard 1993), estuaries and coasts of landlocked seas (Snow and Perrins 1998). The species requires secure areas (Johnsgard 1993, Snow and Perrins 1998) of extensive reedbeds (del Hoyo et al. 1992), wet swamps, mudflats and sandbanks (Nelson 2005) or gravel and rocky substrates (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Johnsgard 1993, Snow and Perrins 1998) for nesting on (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Nelson 2005). Diet The species is entirely piscivorous, preferentially taking fish of between 300 and 600 g in weight (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Breeding site It nests on the ground either on a pile of sticks and vegetation (del Hoyo et al. 1992) or in a simple shallow scrape (Nelson 2005) in single- or mixed-species colonies (e.g. with Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus) (Flint et al. 1984), with a distance between neighbouring nests of c.70-80 cm (Nelson 2005). It shows a preference for nesting sites that are inaccessible to ground predators (Brown et al. 1982). Management information In the Palearctic Region the installation of floating rafts or wooden platforms as safe nesting sites, and the stabilisation of natural nesting areas by reconstructing islands or installing nylon-encased concrete revetments have been successful measures for increasing breeding success (Crivelli et al. 1991). Erecting markers on electricity powerlines or (preferably) burying the powerlines has been successful in significantly reducing deaths due to collision (Crivelli et al. 1991). Installing a series of horizontal strings spaced at intervals over aquaculture ponds is also a successful measure in preventing the species from depredating farmed fish (Crivelli et al. 1991)..
Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater; Marine
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Unknown
Generation Length (years):15.5
Movement patterns:Full Migrant
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The species is threatened by habitat destruction through drainage (Crivelli et al. 1991, del Hoyo et al. 1992, Johnsgard 1993, Nelson 2005), the divergence of rivers for irrigation (Johnsgard 1993), agriculture development and industry (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It is also subject to climatic fluctuations that have a strong influence over water-levels in wetlands: floods leading to the inundation of nesting sites (del Hoyo et al. 1992) and lowering water-levels leading to the death of fish due to increased water salinity (Crivelli 1994). The species is threatened by persecution (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Johnsgard 1993) and hunting for sport because of its (minimal) depredation of fish from fish-farms (Crivelli et al. 1991). It also suffers mortality due to collisions with electric powerlines during migration, dispersal or on its wintering grounds and is often found drowned in fishing nets (Crivelli et al. 1991). Disturbance (del Hoyo et al. 1992), 8 (e.g. from tourism) threatens breeding colonies (Crivelli et al. 1991), and pesticides, heavy metal contamination and disease could have devastating effects on large colonies in the future (Crivelli et al. 1991, del Hoyo et al. 1992). Utilisation Adults of this species are hunted and sold for food at markets in Egypt (del Hoyo et al. 1992).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: Conservation Actions Underway
The species is listed under Appendix I of the Convention on Migratory Species; Appendix II of the Bern Convention; Annex I of the Birds Directive. In its European range it occurs within 43 Important Bird Areas. In the EU it is listed within 108 Special Protection Areas. 

Conservation Actions Proposed
The following information refers to the species's European range only: Monitoring and review of water management practices in key habitats. Protection of breeding and feeding sites. Enforcement and monitoring of persecution, including educational programmes to reduce this threat. Monitoring of heavy metal and pesticide levels, and improved management of water bodies to reduce contaminant loads.

Citation: BirdLife International. 2016. Pelecanus onocrotalus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22697590A86478217. . Downloaded on 15 October 2018.
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