Family Pelicans (Pelecanidae)

Least Concern

Great White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus)


French: Pélican blanc German: Rosapelikan Spanish: Pelícano común
Other common names: Eastern White Pelican, Eurasian Pelican, White Pelican, Rosy Pelican (“roseus”)

Pelecanus Onocrotalus


, 1758,

Caspian Sea


Closest to the Old World clade of pelicans consisting of P. crispus, P. philippensis, P. rufescens and P. conspicillatus#R. Some African and Asian populations have been classified as P. (o.) roseus, but strong individual variation exists, and both the subdivision and the denomination now obsolete. Monotypic.


Breeds from SE Europe E, discontinuously, to N & SE Kazakhstan, also very locally in Africa S of Sahara and in NW India (no recent reports); winters in NE Africa and S Iraq E to N Indian Subcontinent and W Myanmar, and more widely in Afrotropics.

Descriptive notes

140–183 cm, male 9–15 kg, bill 347–471 mm; female 5·4–9 kg, bill 289–400 mm; wingspan 226–360 cm. Adult plumage mostly white except on... read more


At breeding colony utters variety of growling and grunting sounds in aggression, very occasionally... read more


In Eurasia, fresh or brackish water of lakes, deltas, lagoons and marshes, often requiring... read more

Food and feeding

Fish, mostly 300–600 g. In Europe prefers carp (Cyprinus carpio); recorded taking mullet (Mugil) in China and ... read more


Spring in temperate zones, year-round in Africa, starts Feb/Apr in India. Ground nester, habitually in large colonies; nest is usually pile... read more


N populations migratory; arrival in Danube Delta late Mar/Apr, leaving Sept/early Nov. Current... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). BirdLife data indicate that general trend is uncertain, some populations decreasing, others increasing or stable, or trends not... read more

Recommended citation

Elliott, A., Christie, D.A., Jutglar, F., Garcia, E.F.J. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Great White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 2 April 2020).