San Diego Zoo’s Avian Propagation Centre is now the home of a pair of Dalmatian pelicans. At just 11 and 2 days old the pelicans have been moved to the propagation centre at San Diego Zoo after their parents were unable to raise them at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The pelicans will spend between 50 and 60 days at the zoo being hand-reared until they are strong enough to return to their flock at the Safari Park.
Dalmatian pelicans grow fast and will be covered in downy feathers at three to four weeks old. By six to seven months old they are ready to fledge.
This species is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list making them one of the rarest pelican species. The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has established the first North American breeding program for Dalmatian pelicans. The program has been highly successful producing 34 chicks since 2006. A second breeding colony is now being established at the Phoenix Zoo.
Dalmatian pelicans mostly feed upon fish. With the increase in commercial fishing their food sources are being depleted. They are also at risk from hunting both for meat and to obtain their bills which herders make use of when combing horses. The delicate wetland habitats where they breed and raise their young are being damaged causing a loss in numbers.
They are the largest of the eight pelican species with some birds reaching lengths of 6 ft (1.8m) and having wingspans up to 11ft (3.4m). Dalmatian pelicans make their homes in Europe and Asia. In some regions they are already extinct.
Photo Credits: Tammy Spratt/ San Diego Zoo Safari Park