(2176) Pelecanus onocrocotalus onocrocotalus.
THE WESTERN WHITE or ROSY PELICAN.
Pelecanus onocrocotalus Linn., Syst. Nat., 10th ed., i, p. 132 (1758) (Africa) ; Blanf. & Oates, iv, p. 334.
Vernacular names. Hawasil, Gagunber, Gang Goya, Pear, Jalasind (Hind.).
Description. Primaries black with white shafts ; secondaries black but with much white on the outer webs, often extending to the inner also; there is also a sharply-denned but narrow black edging to the secondaries and sometimes to the scapulars; remaining plumage white, the whole head, neck and long crest suffused with rosy-pink, which extends to the back and scapulars and breast; at the base of the fore-neck the long lanceolate feathers are yellow-ochre or tan-yellow.
Colours of soft parts. Iris red to crimson; bill plumbeous-blue, mottled with white along the centre and with the nail and edges of both mandibles red; the lower mandible is blue on the basal, yellow on the terminal half; pouch, face and orbital skin yellow, brighter in the breeding-season; legs and feet fleshy-pink, the webs yellow.
Measurements. Wing, 700 to 730 mm., 640 to 680 mm.; tail 190 to 210 mm.; tarsus about 130 to 140 mm.; culmen, 430 to 450 mm., 390 to 400 mm.
Young birds have the head, neck, centre of back and underpays white, the head and neck much suffused with dull ferruginous ; remaining plumage dull pale brown, the feathers edged paler, the quills and tail darker but with a silvery ashy tinge over the greater part of both webs.
Distribution. The Rosy Pelican breeds from Hungary, where it was formerly very common, to the lakes of Central Asia, whilst it winters in North Africa as far as the Zambesi and Mosambique, in Asia as far South as Mesopotamia, Persian Gulf and Northern India, where it occurs commonly in the extreme North-West only.
Where the breeding-ranges of the two races, the Western and Eastern, meet is still uncertain and Ticehurst was unable on the material available to say what species bred in Iraq. There is, however, evidence that many of the vast swarms occurring in Mesopotamia are winter visitors, migrating North for the breeding-season. These would appear to be true onocrocotalus. On the other hand, some Pelicans breed in Iraq (Mesopotamia) and there are breeding colonies near Fao on the Persian Gulf. Two chicks in the British Museum appear to be of the Eastern race, whilst eggs from the Cox-Cheese man collection are decidedly small. It would seem, therefore, that the Fao colony is one of P. o. roseus and probably the Iraq breeding birds also.
Nidification. The Western Rosy Pelican breeds in large colonies in swamps and inland lakes daring April and May, some pairs continuing to lay during June and early July. The nests are huge masses of: sticks, rushes, grass and water-plants placed in among reeds in shallow water or in the mud and slush immediately surrounding the lakes. Two or three eggs are laid and very rarely four. These are white when first laid, with a thick chalky-covered texture like Cormorants' eggs and they soon become' yellowish and stained. Dombrowski - quoted by Hartert - gives the average of one hundred eggs as 95.2 x 60.2 mm.: maxima 102.0 x 63.5 and 97.3 x 64.5 mm.; minima 80.0 x 54.1 and 82.3 x 53.3 mm.
Habits. This Pelican in its usual haunts collects in very large flocks but in India it occurs in much smaller numbers, its place being taken by the Eastern race. These great birds live entirely on fish, which they hunt into the shallows and then scoop up in their pouches. They fly well and at times may be seen soaring-round almost with the lightness and elegance of Vultures, though their ordinary flight is a slow, dignified flapping, which, however,, takes them through the air at a great pace. They utter a deep guttural squawk from time to time when swimming but are silent birds.