Pelecanus onocrotalus   Linnaeus,  1758 (Bird)
Organism information awaits expert curation
Class: Aves

Image copyrights: pbase

White, wing feathers black, large bill colored bright yellow and blue and tipped with red, pouch and feet yellow.

Male: 175 cm long; 9-15 kg; bill is 347-471 mm long.

Female: 148 cm long; 5-9 kg; bill is 289-400 mm long.

Average wingspan: 226-360 cm.

Voice: Usually silent away from breeding colonies.

Habits: The species is associated with relatively large, warm, shallow fresh, brackish, alkaline or saline lakes, lagoons, marshes, broad rivers, deltas, estuaries and coasts of landlocked seas. The species requires secure areas, of extensive reedbeds, wet swamps, mudflats and sandbanks or gravel and rocky substrates for nesting on. May be found in small flocks as in North India or huge concentrations on large lakes as in the Great Rann of Kachchh.

Adult: Sexes alike, female smaller. Large white bird with yellowish pouch attached to the lower mandible. Bill lead-blue, mottled with white along the centre and with the nail and egdes of bith mandibles red, lower mandible is blue on the basal, yellow on the terminal half, forehead feathers terminate in a point over the bill, slight crest on the back of the head. Plumage mostly white tinged with rose, yellowish breast feathers, black primaries and underside of secondaries, feet fleshy-pink, with yellow webs. Juvenile: Largely white, head and neck overspread with dull iron-rust, remaining plumage dull pale brown, ashy tinged weds.

Breeding Season: Breeds from February to April, colonial nesting. Nests- It nests on the ground either on a pile of sticks and vegetation or in a simple shallow scrape in single- or mixed-species colonies (e.g. with Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus), with a distance between neighbouring nests of 70-80 cm3. It shows a preference for nesting sites that are inaccessible to ground predators.

Synonym (s)

Common Name (s)
• White or Rosy Pelican (English)
• Great White Pelican (English)
• Hawasil (Hindi)
• Gulabi pen (Gujrati)
• Kotumpannom (Malayalam)
• Koolakeda (Tamil)
• Chinkabatu (Tamil)
Economic Importance and Threats
Importance:  Commercial
(Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Pouch has been used for tobacco pouches and sheaths. Young pelicans are prized for fat; the oils derived from pelican fat are used for medicine in China and India (to fight rheumatism).

Pelican feathers and skin are used to make leather. Excrement makes for good, cheap fertilizer in third world countries.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

May eat some commercially important fish, but generally this pelican eats non-commercial fish such as shoalfish and cichlids.)
Threats:  Anthropogenic
(The species is threatened by habitat destruction through drainage the divergence of rivers for irrigation agriculture development and industry. 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 and lowering water-levels leading to the death of fish due to increased water salinity. The species is threatened by persecution and hunting for sport because of its (minimal) depredation of fish from fish-farms. 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. Disturbance(e.g. from tourism) threatens breeding colonies, and pesticides, heavy metal contamination and disease could have devastating effects on large colonies in the future. Utilisation Adults of this species are hunted and sold for food at markets.)

Trophic Level:  Consumer
Prey:  Chiefly fish,eggs and chicks of the Cape Cormorant (Phalacrocorax capensis).
IUCN Status:  Least Concern


• Gujarat, Gulf of Kachchh (Lat: 22.6) (Long: 69.5) INDIA
• North West INDIA
• North INDIA
• North East INDIA
• Punjab INDIA
• Assam INDIA
• Uttar Pradesh INDIA
• Rajasthan INDIA

Literature Source(s)
  • Subba Rao, NV and Sastry, DRK (2005) Fauna of Marine National Park, Gulf of Kuchchh (Gujarat) ZSI 79 pp Available at - NCL, Pune
  • Society for the Management of European Biodiversity Data (2009) World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) Available at -
  • (2003) IUCN Red list of threatened species Available at -
  • Kumar, A; Sati, JP; Tak, PC and Alfred, JRB (2005) Handbook on Indian wetland birds and their conservation Zoological Survey of India, Dehra Dun 468 pp Available at - NIO, Goa
  • PBase Available at -
  • Myers, P; Espinosa, R; Parr, CS; Jones, T; Hammond, GS and Dewey, TA (2006) Animal diversity web Available at -
  • Vernacular names of the Birds of the Indian Subcontinent Buceros, Envis newsletter: Avian Ecology & Inland Wetlands 62pp Available at -
  • Ali S and Ripley SD (1968) Handbook of the birds of India and Pakistan Oxford university press 1 1-368pp Available at - NIO

Page last updated on:2013-02-08

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