Skip to Content

Pelecanidae – Pelicans

Dalmatian Pelican in Bulgaria: Photo by Iordan Hristov

Welcome to the world of Pelecanidae, where large aquatic birds with distinctive throat pouches reign supreme. Found on every continent except Antarctica, pelicans are renowned for their remarkable fishing skills and unique anatomy. With their long bills, broad wings, and webbed feet, they are well-adapted for life on the water. Pelicans are highly social birds often seen in large flocks, and they play a vital ecological role as apex predators in their aquatic habitats. Explore the fascinating lives of these iconic birds, from their intricate mating rituals to their spectacular plunge-diving feeding behavior.

Overview of Pelecanidae

Often observed gliding low over the water or soaring on thermal currents, pelicans also demonstrate impressive long-distance commuting abilities, traveling over 100 kilometers to and from their nesting sites to more bountiful fishing areas. Utilizing their flexible bills and expandable throat pouches as efficient fishing nets, pelicans adeptly capture their prey. Despite their pouches’ capacity, pelicans primarily use them for immediate prey retrieval rather than storage, often swallowing their catch mid-flight as they return to their nests to feed their offspring. While the two brown pelican species favor coastal habitats for nesting and foraging, other pelican species, sporting white or light gray plumage with distinctive black wing markings, typically breed near inland water bodies.