Breeding of Spot-Billed Pelican
Spot-billed pelican breeds in southern Asia from southern Pakistan across India east to Indonesia. It is a bird of large inland and coastal waters, especially large lakes. At a distance they are difficult to differentiate from other pelicans in the region although it is smaller but at close range the spots on the upper mandible, the lack of bright colours and the greyer plumage are distinctive. In some areas these birds nest in large colonies close to human habitations.
Structure of Spot-Billed Pelican
Spot-Billed Pelican is a relatively small pelican but still a large bird. It is 125-152 cm (49-60 in) long and weighs around 4.1-6 kg (9-13.2 lbs). It is mainly white, with a grey crest, hindneck and a brownish tail. The feathers on the hind neck are curly and form a greyish nape crest. The pouch is pink to purplish and has large pale spots, and is also spotted on the sides of the upper mandible. The tip of the bill (or nail) is yellow to orange. In breeding plumage, the skin at the base of the beak is dark and the orbital patch is pink. In flight they look not unlike the Dalmatian pelican but the tertials and inner secondaries are darker and a pale band runs along the greater coverts. The tail is rounder.
Youths of Spot-Billed Pelican
The newly hatched youths of Spot-billed pelican are covered in white down. They then moult into a greyish speckled plumage. The spots on the bill appear only after a year. The full adult breeding plumage appears in their third year.
Breeding of Spot-Billed Pelican
Spot-billed pelican is found to breed only in peninsular India, Sri Lanka and in Cambodia. A few birds from India are known to winter in the Gangetic plains but are reportedly present in many other parts of the region such as the Maldives, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The main habitat is in shallow lowland freshwaters. The spot-billed pelican is not migratory but are known to make local movements and are more widely distributed in the non-breeding season.
Spot-Billed Pelican as a Colonial Breeder
Spot-Billed Pelican is a colonial breeder, often breeding in the company of other water birds. The nests are on low trees near wetlands and sometimes near human habitations. Many large breeding colonies have been recorded and several have disappeared over time. In June 1906, C E Rhenius visited a colony in Kundakulam in Tirunelveli district where the villages considered the birds semi-sacred. The same colony was revisited in 1944, and was found to have about 10 nests of pelicans and nearly 200 nests of painted stork. The Sittang River in Burma was said by E W Oates to have millions of pelicans in 1877 and in 1929 E C Stuart Baker reported that they were still nesting in thousands along with greater adjutant storks.
Nests of Spot-Billed Pelican
Spot-Billed Pelicans nest in colonies and the nest is a thick platform of twigs placed on a low tree. The breeding season varies from October to May. In Tamil Nadu, the breeding season of Spot-billed pelican follows the onset of the northeast monsoon. The courtship display of the male Spot-billed pelican involves a dissention of the pouch with swinging motions of the head up and down followed by sideways swings followed by the head being held back over the back. Bill claps may also be produced during the head swaying movements. The nests are usually built alongside other colonial water birds, particularly painted storks. Three to four chalky white eggs is the usual clutch. The eggs become dirty with age.
Eggs of Spot-Billed Pelican
The eggs of Spot-billed pelican hatch in about 30-33 days. The young Spot-billed pelican stay in or near the nest from three to five months. In captivity the young Spot-billed pelican are able to breed after two years. Like other pelicans, Spot-billed pelican cool themselves using gular fluttering and panting.
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