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Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus
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Conservation measures have resulted in a population increase in Europe, particularly at the species's largest colony, at Lake Mikri Prespa in Greece, and also in other countries, following implementation of conservation actions. However, rapid population declines in the remainder of its range are suspected to be continuing and therefore the species is listed as Vulnerable.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

160-180 cm. Huge, whitish waterbird. Silvery-white breeding plumage. Yellow to purple bare skin around eyes. Orange-red gular pouch at onset of breeding becoming yellow later. Pale grey underwing becoming darker at wing-tips. Bushy crest on nape. Similar spp. White Pelican P. onocrotalus is slightly smaller, has pinkish-white plumage and a yellow gular pouch, more extensive bare skin around eye, downward hanging crest, pink legs and all-dark flight feathers. Voice Barking, hissing and grunting calls at colonies.

Distribution and population
Pelecanus crispus breeds in eastern Europe and east-central Asia, in Serbia and Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Ukraine, Mongolia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan (Crivelli 1996). European breeders winter in the eastern Mediterranean countries, Russian and central Asian breeders in Iran, Iraq and the Indian subcontinent, and Mongolian birds along the east coast of China (Mix and Bräunlich 2000), including Hong Kong (China). Following massive declines during the 19th and 20th centuries, numbers have stabilised between 10,000-20,000 individuals (including c.4,000-5,000 breeding pairs; Hatzilacou 1993) and several colonies are increasing, including at the species's largest colony, at Lake Mikri Prespa in Greece, as well as in Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey (Crivelli et al. 1997; A. Crivelli in litt. 2003, Onmus et al. 2011, S. Bugariu in litt. 2012). The majority of birds breed in the countries of the former Soviet Union (2,700-3,500 pairs; Peja et al. 1996), although the largest colony is at Lake Mikri Prespa, Greece, with around 1,400 breeding pairs (M. Malakou in litt. 2009) and there are around 450 pairs in the Danube Delta (S. Bugariu in litt. 2007). The Mongolian population continues to decline and is "almost extinct" (S. Chan in litt. 2003) due to threats at all stages of the annual life cycle (Shi et al. 2008).

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 4,350-4,800 individuals in the Black Sea and Mediterranean; 6,000-9,000 individuals in South-East Asia and south Asia, and 50 individuals in east Asia (Simba Chan in litt. 2005). This totals 10,000-13,900 individuals, roughly equating to 6,700-9,300 mature individuals.

Trend justification
Although some sub-populations have shown recent increases (including in Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey), this species's population is suspected to have decreased rapidly over the last three generations, in line with levels of disturbance, persecution (particularly by fishermen), wetland alteration and destruction, water pollution, collision with overhead power-lines, over-exploitation of fish stocks and, in Mongolia, hunting by herders.

Behaviour This species is dispersive in Europe, and migratory in Asia (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It starts to breed in late March or April (del Hoyo et al. 1992), sometimes solitarily but usually in dense colonies of up to 250 pairs (del Hoyo et al. 1992; Cramp et al. 1977). Adults form monogamous pair bonds (Mix and Bräunlich 2000). It departs from the colonies between the end of July and September, although a few remain until November (Nelson 2005). It is gregarious during the winter, often occurring in large flocks and foraging communally and cooperatively in small groups (Cramp et al. 1977), although occasionally singly (Cramp et al. 1977). The birds return to their breeding sites in late-January to April, depending on the region (Nelson 2005). Immature birds and non-breeders may remain in the wintering grounds year round (Nelson 2005), or may stay with the breeding colonies (Cramp et al. 1977). They are often nomadic, especially in the Caspian Sea (Nelson 2005). Habitat It occurs mainly at inland, freshwater wetlands but also at coastal lagoons, river deltas and estuaries (Crivelli et al. 1997; Mix and Bräunlich 2000; Peja et al. 1996; del Hoyo et al. 1992). Breeding It breeds on small islands in freshwater lakes (del Hoyo et al. 1992) or in dense aquatic vegetation (del Hoyo et al. 1992) such as reedbeds of Typha and Phragmites (Crivelli 1994; Peja et al. 1996; Pyrovetsi 1997; del Hoyo et al. 1992), often in hilly terrain (Nelson 2005). A few breed in Mediterranean coastal lagoons (Peja et al. 1996; Nelson 2005). The species makes use of habitats surrounding its breeding sites, including nearby islands and wetlands (Nelson 2005). Non-breeding On migration, large lakes form important stop-over sites (Nelson 2005). It typically winters on jheels and lagoons in India, and ice-free lakes in Europe (del Hoyo et al. 1992). It sometimes fishes inshore along sheltered coasts (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Diet It feeds almost entirely on fish, especially carp Cyprinus carpio, perch Perca fluviatilis, rudd scardinius erythrophthalmus, roach Rutilus rutilus, and pike Esox lucius in freshwater wetlands (del Hoyo et al. 1992), and eels, mullet, gobies and shrimps in brackish waters (Crivelli 1994; Peja et al. 1996). In its winter quarters on the Nile it takes mostly Siluridae (Nelson 2005). In the Mikri Prespa breeding colony in Greece it feeds predominantly on the endemic fish species Chalcalburnus belvica (Pyrovetsi and Economidis (1998). Breeding site Most nests are situated amongst aquatic vegetation on floating or stationary islands isolated from the mainland to avoid mammalian predators (Crivelli 1994; Peja et al. 1996; Pyrovetsi 1997) . They are occasionally built on open ground (Hatzilacou 1993; Hatzilacou 1999; Nelson 2005). Nests usually consist of a pile of reeds, grass and sticks approximately 1m high and 0.5-1.5m in diameter (del Hoyo et al. 1992; Nelson 2005). It often tramples the vegetation between nests, and does not tend to nest in areas where such activities would generate deep mud (Nelson 2005). The trampling activity damages the islands and therefore limits the number of years for which an island can be used for breeding (Catsadorakis and Crivelli 2001). On average sites in Greece were found to be used for three years in succession (Catsadorakis and Crivelli 2001). Artificial islands have proved successful as breeding sites in the past (Pyrovetsi 1997) and also in recent years (e.g. since 2008 in Romania [S. Bugariu in litt. 2012]).

Former declines were primarily caused by wetland drainage, shooting and persecution by fishers (Crivelli 1994; Crivelli et al. 1997; Mix and Bräunlich 2000). Cases of illegal shooting are still reported (e.g. four shootings in 2009 in the Danube Delta; B. Barov in litt. 2009) and hunting is considered one of the main threats for the east Asian population (Shi et al. 2008; Yat-tung Yu and Chen Zhihong 2008). Other continuing threats include disturbance from tourists and fishers, wetland alteration and destruction, water pollution, collision with overhead power-lines and over-exploitation of fish stocks (Crivelli et al. 1999; Hatzilacou 1993; Mix and Bräunlich 2000). Organochloride residues including DDT have been recorded in high levels in the eggs of this species and those of its prey (Albanis et al. 1995). Hunting by herders (for traditional use of the bill) continues to threaten the Mongolian population (Mix and Bräunlich 2000). Nest predation by wild boar at times of low water levels is the most important threat to the Bulgarian breeding colony (N. Petkov in litt. 2007). The breeding colonies in Mediterranean lagoons in Albania and Turkey are threatened by coastal developments and the alteration of the functioning of the lagoons (Peja et al. 1996).

Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix I. CMS Appendix I and II. Conservation efforts have reduced the impact of the major threats in Europe (Crivelli et al. 1997). Marking and dismantling of power-lines (Crivelli et al. 1997), the provision of breeding platforms in Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria and Romania and rafts in Greece and Bulgaria, together with wardening (Hatzilacou 1999), water level management and education programmes at key sites, have reduced mortality and increased breeding success. A European action plan was published in 1996 (S. Bugariu in litt. 2007) and reviewed in 2010 (Barov and Derhé 2011). A national species action plan for Romania was officially approved in 2009 (S. Bugariu in litt. 2012). Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor breeding, wintering numbers and ecological changes at key sites. Survey potential wintering grounds in central and east Asia. Sustainably manage wetlands. Establish wardened non-intrusion zones around breeding colonies. Bury power-lines or replace with more visible cable. Seek alternatives to traditional use of pelican bills in Mongolia (Hatzilacou 1999). Legally protect the species and its habitat in range states. Conduct public awareness campaigns and mediate potential conflicts with fishermen. Prevent poaching and overexploitation of fish.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Albanis, T. A.; Hela, D. G.; Hatzilakos, D. 1995. Organochlorine residues in eggs of Pelecanus cripsus and its prey in wetlands of Amvrakikos Gulf, North-western Greece. Chemosphere 31(11-12): 4341-4349.

Albanis, T.A., Hela, D.G. and Hatzilakos, D. 1995. Organochlorine residues in eggs of Pelecanus-crispus and its prey in wetlands of Amvrakikos-Gulf, north-western Greece. Chemosphere 31(11-12): 4341-4349.

Barov, B and Derhé, M. A. 2011. Review of The Implementation Of Species Action Plans for Threatened Birds in the European Union 2004-2010. Final report. BirdLife International For the European Commission.

Cramp, S.; Simmons, K. E. L. 1977. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic, vol. I: ostriches to ducks. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Crivelli, A. 1994. The importance of the former USSR for the conservation of pelican populations nesting in the Palaeartic. In: Crivelli, A.J.; Krivenko, V.G.; Vinogradov, V.G. (ed.), Pelicans in the former USSR, pp. 1-4. International Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Bureau, Slimbridge, UK.

Crivelli, A. J. 1996. Action plan for the Dalmatian Pelican (Pelecanus crispus). In: Heredia, B.; Rose, L.; Painter, M. (ed.), Globally threatened birds in Europe: action plans, pp. 53-66. Council of Europe, and BirdLife International, Strasbourg.

Crivelli, A. J.; Catsadorakis, G.; Hatzilacou, D.; Hulea, D.; Malakou, M.; Marinov, M.; Mitchev, T.; Nazirides, T.; Peja, N.; Sarigul, G.; Siki, M. 2000. Status and population development of Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus and Dalmatian Pelican P. crispus breeding in the Palearctic. In: Yesou, P.; Sultana, J. (ed.), Monitoring and conservation of birds, mammals and sea turtles in the Mediterranean and Black Seas: Proceedings of the 5th Medmaravis Symposium, Gozo, Malta, 29 September - 3 October 1998, pp. 38-46. Environment Protection Department, Valetta.

Crivelli, A. J.; Catsadorakis, G.; Hatzilacou, D.; Nazirides, T. 1997. Pelicanus crispus Dalmatian Pelican. Birds of the Western Palearctic Update 1(3): 149-153.

Crivelli, A. J.; Marsili, L.; Focardi, S.; Renzoni, A. 1999. Organochlorine compounds in pelicans (Pelecanus crispus and Pelecanus onocrotalus) nesting at Lake Mikri Prespa, north-western Greece. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 62: 383-389.

Crivelli, A.J., Hatzilacou, D. and Catsadorakis, G. 1998. The breeding biology of the Dalmatian pelican Pelecanus crispus. Ibis 140(3): 472-481.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Hatzilacou, D. 1993. The distribution of the globally endangered Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus in Greece: threats pertaining to its habitats and recommendations for protection. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Sandy, U.K.

Hatzilacou, D. 1999. Bird conservation in the Amvrakikos Gulf.

Mix, H. M.; Bräunlich, A. 2000. Dalmatian Pelican. In: Reading, R.P.; Miller, B. (ed.), Endangered animals: a reference guide to conflicting issues, pp. 78-83. Greenwood Press, London.

Nelson, J. B. 2005. Pelicans, cormorants and their relatives. Pelecanidae, Sulidae, Phalacrocoracidae, Anhingidae, Fregatidae, Phaethontidae. Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.

Onmus, O., Siki, M., Sarigül, G. and Crivelli, A. J. 2011. Status and development of the population of the globally threatened Dalmatian Pelican, Pelecanus crispus, in Turkey. Zoology in the Middle East 54: 3-18.

Peja, N.; Sarigul, G.; Siki, M.; Crivelli, A. J. 1996. The Dalmatian Pelican, Pelecanus crispus, nesting in Mediterranean lagoons in Albania and Turkey. Colonial Waterbirds 19: 184-189.

Pyrovetsi M. D., Economidis P. S. 1998. The diet of Dalmatian pelicans (Pelecanus crispus) breeding at Lake Mikri Prespa National Park, Greece . Israel Journal of Zoology 44(1): 9-17.

Pyrovetsi, M. 1997. Integrated management to create new breeding habitat for Dalmatian Pelicans (Pelecanus crispus) in Greece. Environmental Management 21: 657-667.

Shi, H. Q.; Cao, L.; Barter, M. A.; Liu, N. F. 2008. Status of the East Asian population of the Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus: the need for urgent conservation action. Bird Conservation International 18(2): 181-193.

Yat-tung Yu; Chen Zhihong. 2008. Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus: the largest waterbird in East Asia, and the rarest? BirdingASIA 9: 62-66.

Further web sources of information
Action Plan for the Dalmatian Pelican in Europe

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Jump to the case study for this species in Wildlife comeback in Europe: The recovery of selected mammal and bird species (Deniet et al. 2003)

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Capper, D., Derhé, M., Malpas, L., Peet, N., Pilgrim, J., Shutes, S., Symes, A.

Bugariu, S., Chan, S., Crivelli, A., Pfister, O., Barov, B., Petkov, N.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Pelecanus crispus. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 23/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus)

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Pelecanidae (Pelicans)
Species name author Bruch, 1832
Population size 6700-9300 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 298,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment