Dalmatian pelican

Pelecanus crispus

Dalmatian pelicans at Paignton Zoo
IUCN Conservation Status –
Least Concern
Extinct In The Wild
Class: Birds
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family: Pelecanidae

This bird prefers to live in lakes, large inland marshlands and wetlands. In the wild there are two distinct populations of Dalmatian pelicans; one breeds in central Asia and Russia, while the other breeds in eastern Europe.

Dalmatian pelicans are carnivores, mainly eating fish but also amphibians, small reptiles, and aquatic crustaceans.

Interesting facts!

  • The Dalmatian pelican is the largest of the pelican species today and is also one of the heaviest flying birds!
  • The pelican’s big throat pouch helps not only to capture fish but also acts as a cooling mechanism. Pelicans open their beaks during warm weather, pulsating their pouch in order to speed up the rate of cooling by evaporation.
  • Pelicans come from an ancient family of birds, with fossils found that date back nearly 40 million years.
  • This bird nests on high piles of reeds and twigs. They are sociable birds, with the males helping to build the nest.


The most serious threats to the Dalmatian pelican are habitat degradation from water pollution and overfishing (reducing their main food source).

The total wild population size is thought to be no more than 14,000 individuals, and the species is legally protected in Greece, Turkey and Romania. Our pelicans are involved in the EAZA ex-situ breeding programme (EEP) for the species and we hope to successfully breed them in the coming years.