The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

Pink-backed Pelican

Afrikaans name: Kleinpelikaan

A Pink-backed Pelican bobs along the water while it keeps an eye out for fish

Photo © Steven Herbert

Pelecanus rufescens

In South Africa you can see the White and Pink-backed Pelicans. The White Pelican is much bigger and the Pink-backed Pelican is more grey rather than white. They get their name from a pinkish tinge on their backs.

Although they are smaller than the White Pelican they still have a wingspan of nearly 3 metres. They weigh around 5 or 6 kg.

The pelican's bill is designed to scoop up fish and that is their main source of food. They do also eat frogs and other amphibians. Often they will go fishing as a group and it is amazing to see them working in unison.

The Pink-backed Pelican may be found in many different types of aquatic habitats. They normally breed and roost in trees but in the absence of trees they will breed and roost on the ground.

Pelicans will nest in trees if they are available. They make the nest from sticks and will sometimes use the same nest year after year. Sometimes it gets so big and heavy that it causes the branch to break and the nest falls to the ground.

The Pink-backed Pelicans eggs are large and white. Normally 2 to 3 eggs are laid.

A Pink-backed Pelican shows off its impressive wingspan as it glides over Durban Botanic Gardens

Photo © Steven Herbert

Pink-backed Pelican

Photo © Steven Herbert

Above - A Pink-backed Pelican showing off its greyish plumage and rather large bill.

References and further reading

The Birds of South Africa - 1st Edition - Author: Dr. Austin Roberts - Published: 1949 - Page: 15

Two Oceans - Author: Branch, Griffiths, Branch and Beckley - Published: 2010 - Page: 356

Wildlife of Southern Africa - Author: Martin Withers and David Hosking - Published: 2011 - Page: 26

Southern African Bird Names Explained - Author: Charles Clinning - Published: 1989 - Page: 104

Sasol Birds of Southern Africa - 4th Edition - Author: Ian Sinclair et al. - Published: 2011 - Page: 54

Seabirds - Author: Peter Harrison - Published: 1983 - Page: 284

Sasol Birds of Southern Africa - 1st Edition - Author: Ian Sinclair et al. - Published: 1993 - Page: 54

Roberts Birds of Southern Africa - 5th Edition - Author: Gordon Lindsay Maclean - Published: 1985 - Page: 35

Roberts Birds of Southern Africa - 6th Edition - Author: Gordon Lindsay Maclean - Published: 1993 - Page: 35

Roberts Birds of South Africa - 4th Edition - Author: McLachlan and Liversidge - Published: 1981 - Page: 23

Newmans Birds of Southern Africa - 7th Edition - Author: Ken Newman - Published: 2000 - Page: 62

Newmans Birds of Southern Africa - 1st Edition - Author: Ken Newman - Published: 1984 - Page: 62

Roberts Birds of South Africa - 3rd Edition - Author: McLachlan and Liversidge - Published: 1975 - Page: 20

Ian Sinclairs Field Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa - 2nd Edition - Author: Ian Sinclair - Published: 1988 - Page: 52

Freshwater Life - Author: C. Griffiths, J. Day & M. Picker - Published: 2015 - Page: 56

Field Guide to the Birds of Kruger National Park - Author: Ian Sinclair and Ian Whyte - Published: 1991 - Page: 22

Birds of the Transvaal - Author: Tarboton, Kemp and Kemp - Published: 1987 - Page: 11

Collins Illustrated Checklist - Birds of Southern Africa - 1st edition - Author: Ber van Perlo - Published: 1999 - Page: 8

Birds of Southern Africa - Kruger National Park - Author: Kenneth Newman - Published: 1985 - Page: 12

Birds of the Transkei - Author: C.D. Quickelberge - Published: 1989 - Page: 28

Bird Atlas of Natal - Author: Digby Cyrus and Nigel Robson - Published: 1980 - Page: 34

A Field Guide to the Birds of Southern Africa - 2nd Edition - Author: O.P.M. Prozesky - Published: 1983 - Page: 30

A First Guide to South African Birds - 6th Edition - Author: Leonard Gill - Published: 1959 - Page: 192

A First Guide to South African Birds - 7th Edition - Author: Leonard Gill - Published: 1975 - Page: 192


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List of South African Birds

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