Family Pelicans (Pelecanidae)

Least Concern

Pink-backed Pelican (Pelecanus rufescens)


French: Pélican gris German: Rötelpelikan Spanish: Pelícano rosado

Pelecanus rufescens

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,

West Africa


Part of a clade that includes also P. crispus, P. philippensis and P. conspicillatus#R. Monotypic.


Subtropical and tropical Africa from Senegal E to Sudan and Somalia and S to N South Africa and Namibia; also SW Arabia and, in small numbers, extreme SE Egypt.

Descriptive notes

125–132 cm; 3·9–7 kg; bill 29–38 cm; wingspan 216–290 cm. Breeding adult has most of feathers long and lanceolate, white, often mixed with... read more


Not very vocal. Utters guttural calls at breeding colony.


Very variable. Prefers freshwater lakes, swamps, rivers and seasonal ponds; sometimes along coast,... read more

Food and feeding

Fish, mostly 80–290 g, but up to 400 g. Like P. onocrotalus prefers cichlids, especially Haplochromis, but takes... read more


Breeds all year round, mostly starting late in rains; on Eritrean islands, in Red Sea, nests Oct–Feb in N, extending to Jul in S.... read more


Mostly dispersive, especially juveniles, but some regular movement N into sub-Saharan steppes for... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Widespread and common; locally abundant, especially in sub-Saharan zone. Difficult to estimate population, this due to tree-nesting... read more

Recommended citation

Elliott, A., Christie, D.A., Jutglar, F., Garcia, E.F.J. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Pink-backed Pelican (Pelecanus rufescens). 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 9 April 2020).