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Animals & Attractions

Eastern White Pelican

They are the second largest species of pelican in the world and we are currently home to a small group, made up of a mixture of males and females

In The Wild:

They are found from southeastern Europe through to Asia and African swamps and are the second largest of the pelican species. Their wingspan can reach between 226 to 360cm. Their bills reach between 28 and 47cm in length and adult males typically weigh from 9 - 15 kg.

Adult eastern white pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus) have pure white plumage with pinkish legs. Juveniles are grey in colour and have dark flight feathers. They have short strong legs with webbed feet to help propel them in the water and aid in take-off.

They are usually found in groups in and around shallow warm fresh water. Their diet consists mainly of fish and they prefer to feed in the early morning.

Breeding season takes place in April and May where breeding takes place in colonies. The females lay between one and four eggs in a clutch. Incubation lasts between 29 - 36 days and the chicks are naked when they hatch. They produce black or brown down feathers. Chicks fledge the nest approximately 65-75 days after hatching. Chicks are often vulnerable to eagles, jackals and lions whereas adults have very few predators. However those living in Africa can fall victim to crocodiles.


Find out more


Not Endangered NE
Data Deficient DD
Least Concern LC
Near Threatened NT
Vulnerable VU
Endangered EN
Critically Endangered CR
Extinct in the wild EW
Extinct EX

Least Concern

For more info on classifications visit


Relative to 6ft (2m) man Relative to 6ft (2m) man


Population is unknown, IUCN May 2012


  • Rivers and Wetlands

    Rivers and Wetlands


Piscivore Piscivore
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Thank you to Royal London

Our thanks go to Royal London, who sponsor our pelican walkthrough at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo. Home to our flock of Eastern White pelicans, the new walkthrough exhibit features glass panelling to allow full, unobstructed views of the magnificent birds.

Emma Hill, Head of Group Brand and Sponsorship, Royal London said:

Royal London (small)

“Royal London has a strong affinity with these beautiful birds and we’re delighted to be working in partnership with RZSS Edinburgh Zoo. We’re thrilled to help the Society communicate to visitors about this species and the issues they face in the wild. We put a pelican at the heart of our brand because it is a proud and dignified creature, which represents the role of 'provider'. Having served as a heraldic symbol of generosity for centuries, their regal connection aligns with our heritage which began in 1861. We are delighted to be working with RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, to help visitors learn more about these quirky and majestic birds.”

In supporting the pelican enclosure, Royal London are supporting the conservation work undertaken by RZSS in securing habitat, studying populations and understanding the effects of man’s activity and global warming on wildlife.

Pelican Walkthrough

Where to see our pelicans

Update 05/01/17

Following the Scottish Government’s announcement of an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone in Scotland on 6 December 2016, RZSS has taken the precaution of closing all walk-through aviaries until the restrictions are lifted. We have also temporarily suspended the Penguin Parade and have put in place increased biosecurity measures in line with Scottish Government recommendations. 

This prevention zone has now been extended until 28 February 2017. Please keep an eye on our website for further updates as this date is subject to change. 

Animal welfare is our number one concern and we will always take precautions to minimise risk to our animals. The penguins will still be available to view from outside the enclosure and underwater viewing areas. 

Our pelican walkthrough exhibit is located near meerkat plaza, at the front of the Zoo.

It features large ponds and cascading waterfalls surrounded by verdant plants and trees. It even includes a number of stunning mature weeping willows that tumble down over the water (and are thought to be around 100 years old), and a wooden jetty set onto one of the ponds.

This new exhibit features glass panelling to allow full, unobstructed views of these magnificent birds and whilst visitors do not have direct physical contact, the new walkthrough experience immerses you in the pelicans’ habitat.

Eastern white pelican walkthrough

Learn more about the walkthrough from Birds Team Leader, Colin