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Pink-backed pelican

Scientific Name: Pelecanus rufescens

As their name suggests, these pelicans have a pink back. Most of their feathers are grey-white, though their breast and abdomen is also pink in colour. Young birds are brown, with a slight pinkish tinge.

These pelicans feed mostly in the morning and evening. Pink-backed pelicans live in a wide range of watery habitats but seem to prefer quiet areas with slow-moving water.

These pelicans will breed throughout the year. They build nests of sticks in the trees, which are often so close together that the nests touch. Such tree colonies can contain 20-500 pairs. They lay one to three eggs, but chick mortality is often high due to sibling aggression. They fledge after 84 days, but will continue to be fed by their parents for some time after this. Pairs will reuse nests from the previous year if they are in a good state of repair.

Pink-backed pelicans only eat fish. Large individuals can eat fish up to 400g in weight, but fish between 80-290g are more usual. They will eat 900-1,200g each day, including plenty of fish fry. They move around in groups, but hunt individually.

This species has a very large distribution and so is classed as Least Concern. They are very tolerant of disturbance by humans and are not seen as competition by fishermen as they hunt alone. Tree loss is a serious threat as they require trees to nest in. Pollution from pesticides in rivers is causing a build up of toxins in the pelicans’ fish stocks. These toxins can make breeding more difficult and may become a problem in the near future.

Key Facts:

  • Conservation Status: Least Concern
  • Distribution: Central Africa, Eastern Africa, Western Africa
  • Habitat: Coast, Freshwater
  • Diet: Fish
  • Height: 125 – 132cm
  • Weight: 3.9 – 7kg
  • No. of young: 1 – 3