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Peruvian Pelican Pelecanus thagus
BirdLife is updating this factsheet for the 2016 Red List
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Although the population of this species is now stable or perhaps even increasing, it is likely to still be recovering after dramatic declines in the El Nino year of 1998. It could suffer similar declines in the future if conditions were repeated, for these reasons it is classified as Near Threatened.

Taxonomic source(s)
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.
SACC. 2006. A classification of the bird species of South America. Available at: #

Taxonomic note
Pelecanus occidentalis and P. thagus (Sibley and Monroe 1990, 1993) previously lumped into P. occidentalis following SACC (2005), are now considered distinct species following SACC (2007).

Identification. Average weight 7 kg; length 1.5 m. Dark in colour with a white stripe from the top of the bill to the crown and down the sides of the neck; pale upperwings; dark brown patch on humerals; long tufted feathers on head; facial skin dark with restricted pink around the eye; reddish bill tip; bill base yellow; blue striped gular pouch that is brighter during its breeding season. Similar species. Used to be considered a subspecies of Pelecanus occidentalis but differs in its larger size and greater length.

Distribution and population
This species is restricted to the coast of central Peru and Chile. Although the population may currently exceed 500,000 mature individuals (del Hoyo et al. 1992), this is a fraction of former numbers and numbers fluctuate greatly in association with El Niño, and with numbers of schooling anchoveta Engraulis ringens.

Population justification
The most recent population estimate places it at 100,000-1,000,000 individuals.

Trend justification
It is likely to have been as badly affected by the El Niño event of 1998 as other Humboldt Current species such as Inca Tern Larosterna inca, and although the population is thought to be increasing (Wetlands International 2006), declines over 36 years (three generations) are thought to have been in the region of 10-19%.

It breeds in large colonies on rocky coasts, feeding in shallow offshore waters along the coast on small schooling fish (del Hoyo et al. 1992).

It is likely to have been as badly affected by the El Niño event of 1998 as other Humboldt Current species such as Inca Tern Larosterna inca, which declines over this period approached 30%. Pelicans are notoriously susceptible to disturbance at breeding colonies, either intentional (e.g. by fishermen), or unintentional (e.g. by tourists).

Conservation Actions Underway
None is known. Conservation Actions Proposed
Survey to assess population size. Regularly monitor at certain sites throughout its range to determine population trends, particularly after El Niño years. Restrict access to important breeding colonies. Study the interactions between this species and the fisheries.

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.

Wetland International - China Office. 2006. Relict Gull surveys in Hongjianao, Shaanxi Province. Newsletter of China Ornithological Society 15(2): 29.

Further web sources of information
Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

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

Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Mahood, S., Sharpe, C J

Garcia-Godos, I., Jaramillo, A., Monteiro, A., Simeone, A., Zavalaga, C.

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Pelecanus thagus. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 21/10/2016.

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 - Peruvian pelican (Pelecanus thagus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Pelecanidae (Pelicans)
Species name author Molina, 1782
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Increasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 220,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species