Diving Pelicans

Genus Pelecanus

The two species of diving pelicans are exclusively American and were considered to be one single species with several subspecies until recently.
  • Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis; five subspecies:
    - P. o. occidentalis, North and South American coast and West Indies.
    - P. o. carolinensis, Atlantic coast from Carolina to Orinoco.
    - P. o. californicus, American Pacific coast from California to Northern Peru.
    - P. o. murphy, Colombia to Northern Peru.
    - P. o. urinator, Galapagos Islands
  • Peruvian Pelican Pelecanus thagus, Pacific Coast from Central Peru to southern Chile.

The upper mandible of the brown pelicans is different from those of the White Pelicans by being very slender instead of spatule. The coloration is variable from gray to yellowish with dark and orange markings, depending on age. The skulls of the subspecies are probably inseparable. The Peruvian Pelican is the larger of both species.

Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, San Francisco, Cal., USA
Culmen: 351 mm; total: 436 mm, unsexed adult

White Pelicans

Genus Pelecanus

There are six species of the so called White Pelicans, although a few of them show a lot of black, gray or pink colors. Most of the species involved are not strictly seabirds, they occur on fresh water as well. All of them can be found in coastal area’s of their range. They don’t dive for food like the Brown Pelicans, but are surface feeders.
  • Eastern White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus, Africa, south-east Europe, Asia Minor and Himalayan region.
  • Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus crispus, south-east Europe, Asia minor and Central Asia.
  • Spot-billed Pelican Pelecanus phillipensis, Indian subcontinent and Malaysia.
  • Pink-backed Pelican Pelecanus rufescens, tropical Africa south of Sahara.
  • Australian Pelican Pelecanus conspicillatus, Australia.
  • American White Pelican Pelecanus erythrorhychos, North America.

Dalmatian Pelican
Pelecanus crispus, Samos, Greece
Total: 459 mm; bill sheath not present, unsexed adult

Pink-backed Pelican
Pelecanus rufescens
Culmen: 344 mm; total: 416 mm, unsexed adult