Simultaneous south eastern European Pelican Census for a second time Print

119 wetlands and 8 countries in 1 afternoon – the 2nd Pelican census covered all of SE Europe, Ukraine and Turkey

 Friday 13 October 2017

The 2nd SE European pelican census was conducted last May on the 6th on a single-afternoon simultaneous count in seven countries in SE Europe, Ukraine and Turkey, as well as in the part of the transboundary Great Prespa Lake belonging to an eighth country, the fYR of Macedonia. Ukraine has been the new entry in this year’s census.



This international census involved the two pelican species, the globally endangered Dalmatian pelican (DP) and the great white pelican (GWP). It has been an initiative of and was coordinated by the Society for the Protection of Prespa (SPP), an environmental NGO based in Agios Germanos, Prespa, in Greece and was accomplished thanks to the collaboration of various organisations and individuals  from Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, the fYR of Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Turkey and Ukraine.

Pelicans were recorded in 119 wetlands in total, this representing a good coverage of the network of wetlands used by  the two species of pelicans in this corner of the world, which is thought to be home to about 50% of the global population of the Dalmatian pelican.

It is important to note that pelicans are among the few species whose populations are monitored annually throughout SE Europe, by means of targeted counts of breeding pairs in the colonies in spring and the number of over-wintering individuals. The international census gives a more complete picture of the overall size of the population, which includes both breeding and non-breeding individuals, as well as immature birds.

This ambitious task was carried out with the contribution of various participants, which included: the Management Authorities of 20 protected areas, 4 public institutions and 12 environmental NGOs of which 7 are BirdLife partners. Overall, 157 people -personnel from the collaborating organisations together with volunteers- recorded 5,617 DPs and 37,334 GWPs. These numbers represent a 10% decrease for the DP compared with the data collected in the 2016 census and a 63% increase for the GWP. It is important to note that only 9% of the GWP increase is attributed to the new entries from Ukraine, i.e. the GWPs counted there and added to the total this year, unlike last year. The impressive 53.5% increase -when removing Ukrainian GWPs- is ascribed to the increase of the Romanian population which exhibits a huge escalation but the reasons for this are not well understood.

The western (Adriatic–Ionian) DP populations which form a distinct meta-population showed a slight increase of 12% compared to last year and accounted for 16% of the total number in 2017, when in 2016 it represented 13% of the total DPs counted in SE Europe.

The census has once again highlighted the exceptional importance of the collaborative network of authorities and scientists from different countries that has been created in the past few years. Such invaluable simultaneous data can be gathered only through extensive international collaborations. It is worth noting that this activity which covered tens of thousands of square kilometers and needed to be carried out by cars and boats in most wetlands, and even a light aircraft for the Danube Delta colonies, which span vast areas of inaccessible reedbeds, required minimal financial resources thanks to the involvement of so many enthusiastic volunteers.

The wetlands of this region act as important refuges for waterbirds, and for pelicans in particular, while at the same time the value of each of them is amplified by their proximity to other wetlands. This is because, although pelicans have their breeding colonies in just 20 or so wetlands in SE Europe, Ukraine and Turkey, they use a much larger number to meet all their needs, especially during the breeding season.

The need for joint planning for the protection and management of pelicans has long been recognised and through the impetus of actions like the SE European census we will hopefully arrive at more concrete actions such as the ones included in the recently submitted LIFE Nature project proposal entitled “Conservation of the Dalmatian pelican along the Black Sea / Mediterranean flyway” encompassing actions to be implemented in Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine and Greece.

You can find the results, the list of participants and a map of wetlands censused here