Giant Dalmatian pelican seen in UK first time in centuries

A giant pelican has been observed in the UK for the first time in centuries. The sighting attracted hundreds of bird enthusiasts to Land’s End in Cornwall to see whether they could catch a glimpse of the magnificent Dalmatian pelican.

The Dalmatian pelican (Pelecanus crispus) is a Goliath of a bird, the largest of the pelican species and one of the biggest living bird species in the world.

It breeds from southeastern Europe to India and China in shallow lakes and swamps. It is from 160 to 183 cm (5ft 3in to 6ft) long, weighs from 7.25 to 15 kg (16 to 33.1 pounds), and has a wingspan of 290 to 245 cm (9ft 6in to 11ft 4in).

Giant Dalmatian Pelican in UKA Dalmatian Pelican has been observed flying in the UK for the first time in several hundred years. (Image: adapted from twitter.com/BirdGuide)

Pelican spotted every day this week

Since last Sunday, Cornwall Birding – which describes itself as Cornall’s premier birding website – has reported sightings of the large pelican every day.

On Sunday it was seen at Land’s End offshore at 1pm, then again at 1.45pm and 2pm. In the early afternoon, reports came in of sightings at the golf course at Cape Cornwall.



On Monday the pelican was seen flying over Land’s End towards Nanjizal at 9.10am, and then again at 10:15am, flying SE. It was seen several times that morning.

On Tuesday several sightings were reported, the first one at 11:55am circling over a carp park and Singate’s House, gradually drifting towards Trevilley. At about mid-day it was seen flying towards Nanjizal, and then over Polgigga after 1pm.

On Wednesday it is reported to still be in the area, starting the day over the sea off Porthgwarra. Early today it flew east, then later at 9am it was seen flying towards Nanjizal.

Rare pelican seen in UK for first timeBird enthusiasts across the country are super-excited about the Dalmatian pelican spotted in the UK. (Image: twitter.com/RareBirdAlertUK)

Paul Freestone, of Cornwall Birding, said that when he saw the Dalmatian pelican in the UK, it was the ‘pinnacle’ of his bird-watching career. “Cornish Dalmatian Pelican has been seen in Belarus, Poland, Germany and France before making landfall here but origin has been questioned,” he tweeted.

Photographer Josef Fitzgerald-Patrick, who described the magnificent bird as ‘incredible’, said that watching it taking off from the water was like nothing he had ever seen before.



Makes other birds look ‘tiny’

Mr. Fitzgerald-Patrick said:

“This particular bird had a 1.6 metre (5ft 3in) wingspan, and a buzzard has a metre (3ft 4in) wingspan – this made them look tiny.”

The BBC quoted Tony Whitehead of the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Bird) who said: “It’s a first for the UK.” He said that evidence points to pelicans breeding in the Somerset area about five thousand years ago.

Majestic Dalmatian PelicanSome of the pictures of the beautiful Dalmatian pelican, captured by photographer Josef Fitzgerald-Patrick. (Image: flickr.com)

The British Trust for Ornithology shows made the following comment about pelicans:

“Pelicans must be amongst the most distinctive of birds, with their enormous pouched beaks with which they shovel up fish. Two species occur in Europe, the endangered Dalmatian Pelican and the White Pelican, both weighing around 15kg, making them amongst the heaviest of flying seabirds.”

“Neither occurs naturally in Britain, though occasional birds do escape from bird collections.” Brian Egan from the Rare Bird Alert network said there was very strong evidence for the bird to be officially verified as the first one to visit the UK.”

Members of the Rare Bird Alert network suggest there is compelling evidence for the Dalmatian pelican to be officially verified as the first wild one observed in the UK. Later this year, the British Ornithological Union Records Committee will make a final decision.

Dalmatian pelicans photoThis incredible picture, taken in Hungary by Bence Máté, who grew up in Hungary in one of Europe’s major bird migratory and bird nesting areas, is of Dalmatian pelicans with their beaks open. A view only fish usually get to see just before they are gobbled up. (Image: Natural History Museum, London. Credit: Bence Máté)

About the Dalmatian Pelican

The Dalmatian Pelican is listed as ‘Vulnerable’. However, conservation measures have helped increase its population in its largest colony, at Lake Mitri Prespa in Greece. In other southern European countries numbers have also increased.

However, in most of the rest of the word, rapid population declines continue to threaten the overall survival status of the species.

According to birdlife.org:

“The population is estimated to number 4,350-4,800 individuals in the Black Sea and Mediterranean; 6,000-9,000 individuals in South-East Asia and south Asia, and 50 individuals in east Asia. This totals 10,000-13,900 individuals, roughly equating to 6,700-9,300 mature individuals.”

Video – First Dalmatian pelican seen in UK in centuries

In this video footage you can see the pelican flying in the sky in Porthgwarra, Cornwall, south-west England.

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