Great white pelican

   ›      ›   Great white pelican - Pelecanus onocrotalus.

The great white pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus) belongs to the family Pelecanidae.

The great white pelican species is distributed in Indian Subcontinent, Europe, Asia and Africa.

Taxonomy of Great white pelican

  • Scientific Name: Pelecanus onocrotalus
  • Common Name: Great white pelican
  • French: Pélican blanc; German: Rosapelikan; Spanish: Pelícano común;
  • Other names: Eastern White Pelican, Eurasian Pelican, White Pelican, Rosy Pelican;
  • Family: Pelecanidae › Pelecaniformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: Linnaeus, 1758

Pelecanus onocrotalus species is considered closely related to P. crispus, P. philippensis, P. rufescens and P. conspicillatus.

Indian birds - Great white pelican - Pelecanus onocrotalus
Indian birds - Great white pelican - Pelecanus onocrotalus



The great white pelican species is a large bird and the male is larger than the female pelican. The male measures, 175 cm in length and weighs 9,000 to 15,000 grams. Its bill length is 350 to 450 mm. The female measures 150 cm in length and weighs 5,500 to 9,000 grams.

The bill is 280 to 400 mm long. The wingspan is 220 to 350 cm. The plumage is whitish in adults. The immature birds have grey plumes. The breeding males have pinkish facial skin and the females have orange facial skin.


These pelican species prefer large, warm, shallow water bodies surrounded by reed beds and dense vegetation. They inhabit freshwater and saline lakes, estuaries, mudflats, creeks and ponds.

Feeding habits

These species feed mainly on fish. They fish in the early morning and early evening. They may also feed on other small birds, frogs and crustaceans.


The great white pelican species in the temperate areas breed during the spring season. They breed throughout the year in Africa. In India they breed during February to April. They nest on the ground on a pile of vegetation. The female may lay from 1 to 4 eggs in a clutch. Both the parents take care of young.


The great white pelican species are distributed in Eastern Europe, Africa, Northwest India, Pakistan, Nepal and Myanmar.

Movement Patterns

The great white pelican species in the north are fully migratory, moving southwards for wintering.

The rest of the populations are sedentary. After breeding they may disperse for feeding grounds.

Status and conservation

The global population of the great white pelican species has a wide range and these birds are considered as least vulnerable. The species is threatened by habitat destruction, human activity in the breeding habitat, fishing activities and hunting.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these pelican species and has listed them as of "Least Concern".

Biological classification of Pelecanus onocrotalus
Species:P. onocrotalus
Binomial name:Pelecanus onocrotalus
Distribution:Indian Subcontinent, Europe, Africa and Asia;
Feeding habits:frogs, crustaceans, small birds and fish;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

Popular posts in Birds of India

Image source:
Author: Dakoman | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
Current topic in Birds of India: Great white pelican - Pelecanus onocrotalus.
Contact State Tourism or travel agents for bird watching and wildlife tours.