Spot-billed Pelican  Pelecanus philippensis


  • Pelecanus : Greek word pelekan, pelekanos – pelican.
  • Philippensis : From Philippines

Vernacular names: Sind: Pen, Hindi: Hawasil, Bi: Bellua, Birwa, Bherwa, Ben: Ganggoya, Gaganber, Garapolo, Gorapullo, Ass: Dhera, Bhela, Mani: Uphong, Guj: Gulabi pen,Ruperi pen, Chotli pen Kutch: Pen,Ori: Raja hansa, Ta: Koolakeda, Te: Chinkabatu, Mal: Kotumpannom, Sinh: Pas boruwa, Pasbara, Mar: Pandharazoliwala,Sans: Mahaplav, Mar: ThipkyachachochichaZholiwala, Hawaseel

Distribution in India: Resident in many parts of India, Breeds in South and North east India.

Description: Size of 135-140 cm.The breeding adult has a dull white head and neck, can be grizzled or somewhat peppered, the curly feathers on hindneck have dark bases forming brown-grey mane on hindneck, feathers longest on nape creating dull white shaggy crest, rest of upperparts including scapulars dull white, back and side of rump strongly tinged with dull pink or salmon pink; upperwing has elongated dull white coverts slightly tinged pinkish or pale cream-yellow, more strongly pinkish-toned on lesser coverts at wing-base, tertials and rearmost scapulars whitish with narrow blackish shafts and often diffuse grey centers, exposed outer greater coverts greyer with blackish shafts, primary coverts blackish like remiges, secondaries with variable silvery-grey fringes; underwing has grey remiges, dull white greater coverts forming pale band on central wing, rest of coverts and axillaries dull pink to cinnamon-pink, but variable, many secondary and primary coverts can be dull white; tail silvery grey with narrow blackish shafts, variably tinged dull brown with whitish fringes, looks dull overall and contrasts with whitish uppertail-coverts. The underparts are dull white with pale yellowish tinge to base of fore neck and central upper breast; posterior underparts washed dull pink to cinnamon. The non-breeding adult looks dirtier, has peppered head and greyer neck, the face more contrasting with pale cream-yellow skin around eye, while nape and most of neck may be dark greyish brown, the nape feathers hardly longer than those on hind neck, the rest of body and wings usually tinged dull buff, tertials often largely brownish , parts of back tinged brownish, and some may appear ochraceous over most of abdomen; iris whitish to orange, being redder outside iris, the iris often browner in non-breeders; broad naked ring around eye cream-yellow to pink (more usually pink to dark orange in females, deep yellow or paler in males), the lower half can be whiter, surrounded by slate-grey to blackish skin except above, broadly on lores, but in non-breeders dark areas usually paler grey, not contrasting with greyish face; bill flesh to orange-flesh with diagnostic dark spots on side of upper mandible, often with dark spot at very base of lower mandible too, and reddish on distal half of cutting edges, while base of lower mandible may be paler, nail orange to fleshy yellow, gular pouch purplish red or more magenta distally with blackish spots throughout, or pale fleshy cream, pinker distally, with dark bluish-grey spotting, and may look largely greyish at distance, bill and gular pouch similar but duller in non-breeder, the gular pouch often paler; legs grey to blackish grey, may have pinkish flesh on soles and rear tarsus. Both the sexes are similar in plumage, but female slightly smaller. The juvenile has greyish head and neck peppered dark dull brown, curly feathers with visible  dull brown bases forming mane on hindneck, longest at nape, base of hindneck often broadly dark brownish, dull brown over mantle, scapulars and upperwing-covert. Each feather has pale tip when fresh, the coverts not elongated, lesser coverts at base of wing are mostly whitish, remiges are browner than adult, back to uppertail coverts are dull white with narrow brownish shafts, tail is brown-grey, underparts are dull whitish; transitional plumage has grey-brown feathers of dorsal sides and upperwing-coverts merging with whitish ones, the latter is elongated on upperwing; at first has very dull, unspotted bill and pouch,, iris is dull brownish, pale naked area around eye narrower than in adult, legs are pale flesh, but bare parts soon become similar to those of non-breeding adult.

Habitat: It is found in watery tracts, including marshes, jheels, rivers, estuaries, reservoirs, tanks, flooded fields, large lakes, brackish lagoons, tidal creeks and along coast; often feeds in quiet backwaters. Requires large trees for nesting, normally in swamp forest or swampy savanna, but sometimes along margins of paddy fields, where undisturbed; trees also used for roosting, with certain preference for bare or dead trees.

Food Habits: It eats mainly fish. The daily requirement reckoned to be around 1 Kg. It normally feeds alone, though sometimes in groups.

Breeding Habits: They breed in Nov- March in India. They are tree nester, normally 3–15 nests per tree, often in mixed colonies with storks, egrets or cormorants.There are two important prerequisites for pelican breeding, a suitable place to breed, safe from terrestrial predators, and an adequate source of food to keep the colony supplied throughout the breeding season. Typical territorial displays, to ward off intruders or to strengthen the bond in pair formation, include a “Head-up”, with the bill raised skyward and sometimes with the pouch swollen up like a balloon, “Gaping”, “Bill-clapping”, “Bowing”, “Head-wagging” and “Bill-interlocking”, amongst others. The nest-site is selected by the female in most cases. The nest has  a thick twig base, which is sometimes covered with a lining of rice straw and decaying water weeds. It becomes solid with the droppings of the young, but an abandoned nest is usually dismantled by other pelicans or destroyed by the rains, so each year it is necessary to build a new one.They lay a clutch of 1-6 eggs. Incubation is carried out by both sexes and lasts 30-36 days. As in most other Pelican there is no brood patch, so the eggs are rested on the feet for incubation, a system also used by the cormorants. Incubation begins with the laying of the first egg and each -parent normally has a stint of about 24 hours. The fledging period is 70-85 days.The parents gradually stop bringing food to the nest, which eventually provokes the chicks into taking to the air for the first time, and ultimately becoming independent.