< Fauna
Great White Pelican
Pelecanus onocrotalus

There are 8 species of pelicans found in nature, 2 of them live in Bulgaria – the Great White and Dalmatian. They inhabit wetlands along the Danube and Black Sea coast and rarely venture into the inland.

Pelicans are among the largest flying birds. Their body is massive and can reach weight of 13 kg. These birds can be hardly confused with any other species, even in flight because of their characteristic enormous beak with a huge leather bag (pouch). Their wings are large, broad, adapted for long, soaring flight. The adult Great White Pelican (bg:Rozov pelican, meaning Pink Pelican) has soft pink plumage and bright yellow leather pouch. The skin around the eyes is naked, without feathers, which distinguishes it from the Dalmatian pelican. The young birds are dark brown.

The Great white Pelican is waterfowl. Their legs are short and with all four toes webbed. In water these birds are graceful, despite their large size, but clumsy on land with a rolling gait.

In Europe, the largest nesting colonies of thee Great White Pelican are located in the deltas of the rivers Danube and Volga, and small individual colonies can be found on the lakes Manych-Gudilo and Prespa. In Bulgaria they no longer propagate, although in some years single pairs remain in the colony of Dalmatian pelicans living in Lake Srebarna and attempt to nest. The main food of the Great White Pelican is fish.

Most often their victims are weak and sick fish, but fishermen consider them a threat. White Pelicans have a very interesting way of hunting. They gather in a large group that spreads like a fan and chases the fish to the shore. When the fish end up in shallow water, the pelicans begin to fill their pouched bills.

The lakes around Burgas are an important stop during migration to the wintering places of the species in Africa. Every autumn nearly 30,000 pelicans pass through our territory. Flying in long stretched lines, they can be seen trespassing even over the city. Flocks usually number up to several hundred individuals, the largest groups can reach up to 4-5 thousand birds. Many of the migrating birds roost in Lake Atanasovsko and during the day can be seen fishing in Lake Vaya. After the pelicans fill up their energy supplies, they continued on their journey to African wintering grounds. In the recent years, Great White Pelicans can be seen in the wetlands around Burgas during the summer and even winter time.

Te Great White Pelican is protected under the Biodiversity law and is included in the Red Book of Bulgaria. The most common the species suffer from anxiety in their sleeping, resting and feeding territory. The destruction and pollution of wetlands, illegal hunting during migration and wintering periods are other factors that reduce its numbers.

Dr. Svetla Dalakchieva
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