Great White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus)

Great White Pelican are massive, 70" (178cm) birds, with a 10' (300cm) wingspan. A white bird that shows the rear half of wings black when in flight. The facial skin is flesh-pink in colour. The pouch beneath the bill is yellow. The bill is a mixture of greys and pinks. The webbed feet are yellowish or orange. Males are larger than females.
During the breeding season, the white plumage is tinged with pink and the chest is flecked with pale brownish yellow. Males develop yellowish-pink facial skin and females, bright orange. An 'occipital crest' develops (tuft of feathers on top of the bird's head). The bill is a mixture of bright blues, pinks and reds, with a red 'nail' at the end. An orange-red knob develops at the base of the upper mandible ('forehead'), which turns pink after eggs are laid.

Great White Pelicans are very gregarious birds, often seen in large numbers. They are a very 'regimented' bird, all following what a 'leader' does. They are often seen sleeping, facing in the same direction, or flying in V-shaped formations, then soaring together, using their huge wings on the thermals.

Great White Pelicans eat fish. In a regimented fashion, they encircle the fish forcing them into a central area and then dip their heads in unison, like large scoops. When the elastic pouch is full, it can hold up to 10 litres and is then allowed to drain, leaving the fish inside, which are quickly swallowed. Each Pelican swallows approximately 2lb (1kg) of fish per day, usually early in the morning.

Great White Pelicans are most numerous in Kenya's Rift Valley lakes, including Lake Turkana, but especially at Lake Nakuru. They breed at Lake Elmenteita.

Extra Great White Pelican Facts
Great White Pelicans nest on the ground, unlike the only other Pelican seen in Kenya, the Pink-backed Pelican, which nests in trees.
Swimming Great white Pelicans are sometimes predated by Nile Crocodiles.

Photographed at Kenya's Nairobi National Park.

Categories & Keywords
Subcategory Detail:
Keywords:bird, great white pelican, kenya, pelican, wildlife

Great White Pelicans

Great White Pelicans beside the large dam in Kenya's Nairobi National Park.