• A lone Great White Pelican was spotted for a few fleeting moments at the Nelapattu Bird Sanctuary, located at the end of the Pulicat lake in Andhra Pradesh, on December 29.
  • The sighting was documented by K.V.R.K. Thirunaranan, founder of The Nature Trust, and K. Hussainaiah, bird watcher and guide at the sanctuary.
  • The Great White Pelican has two distinct populations — one in eastern Europe and Asia and the other in Africa.
  • The bird is a winter visitor to Africa and Asia, noted Mr. Thirunaranan in a research article on the sightings of the bird in Pallikaranai in the Journal of Threatened Taxa in 2017.
  • One member of the species was last seen on and off in the Pallikaranai marshland from December 2014 to July 2015. Very few records of this species are available in southern India, Mr. Thirunaranan said.
  • “What makes this visitor unique is that it is a heavy bird weighing around 6 kg and, like the last time, it has flown in from a faraway land alone and lives among a group of pelicans,” Mr. Thirunaranan said.
  • The available literature on the species indicates that this sighting could be considered a new winter distribution range for it in India, he said.
  • According to birdwatchers at Nelapattu, a Great White Pelican was seen a few times in 2017 and 2018. However, there are no records of those sightings.


The species is threatened by:

  1. Habitat destruction through drainage
  2. Divergence of rivers for irrigation, agriculture development and industry
  3. Floods leading to the inundation of nesting sites
  4. Persecution
  5. Hunting for sport because of its (minimal) depredation of fish from fish-farms
  6. Collisions with electric power lines during migration
  7. Pesticides
  8. Heavy metal contamination

Conservation Actions

The species is listed under:

  1. Appendix I of the Convention on Migratory Species
  2. Appendix II of the Bern Convention
  3. Annex I of the Birds Directive
  4. In its European range, it occurs within 43 Important Bird Areas.
  5. In the EU, it is listed within 108 Special Protection Areas.
    It has been rated as a species of least concern on the IUCN Red list of Endangered Species.
  6. It is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African Eurasian MigratoryWaterbirds is applied.


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