pelican, known affectionately as Percy, was resident on the main
fishing harbour of Lesvos and a friend to all the fisherman who
worked there. He’s mate had been shot several years ago so
the fisherman took pity on him and fed him scraps of their unwanted
fish. Being a tame bird, he was easy to photograph close-up but
occasionally did try to eat the lens!
great white pelican is one of the largest flying birds in the world,
with a wingspan of nearly three metres. They are found in Eastern
Europe, Asia and Africa. The ones in Africa stay there all year,
but the others fly south (migrate) to Africa in the winter because
they do not like cold weather.
rather clumsy on land, Great white pelicans are superb in the air
and are able to fly for a whole day and night without stopping,
covering a distance of about 300 miles. They spend a great deal
of their time in the water. They usually choose large, freshwater
lakes that have reed beds or small islands that can be used as safe
places to nest.
feed mainly on fish, though they sometimes eat crustaceans (shrimp-like
creatures) and have even been known to eat ducklings. They usually
fish in shallow water. Their very special way of fishing happens
by using their pouch to scoop up several litres of water with fish
swimming in it. They then lift their head and squeeze their pouch
to get rid of the water before swallowing the fish.
often use teamwork when feeding: a group of 8-12 birds swim into
a horseshoe shape to surround the fish, then, all together, they
plunge in their beaks and scoop them out.
pelicans could be eaten by Egyptian vultures and eagles and in some
areas by jackals, hyenas and lions. Adults are sometimes eaten by
mate for life and often breed in large colonies of 40,000 to 50,000
pairs. Nests are usually just a rough pile of twigs on the ground,
sometimes not even that. Two eggs are laid, which both parents keep
warm by taking turns to rest them on their feet. After 29-36 days
the eggs hatch into bald, helpless chicks which the parents feed
from a special liquid that runs down their beaks. The chicks are
able to fly when they are 10 - 12 weeks old, but will not be ready
to breed themselves until they are aged 3-4.
• Males are larger than females and also have larger beaks.
• The little hook on the end of the beak is used for preening
(combing) the feathers to keep them in perfect condition for flying.
Special oil keeps them waterproof.
• Pelicans are surprisingly light for their size (5 - 9 kg)
because of air spaces in the bones and under the skin. This helps
• Although their lifespan in the wild is 15 -20 years, a pelican
in captivity once lived to be 60 years old!