The Adventures of Katerina Print

Wednesday 23 Janouary 2018

Katerina is one of the Dalmatian pelicans that were ringed and had a transmitter placed on them, in the summer of 2013. During the same year we placed a total of 7 transmitters on pelicans. Four and a half years later, only one pelican, Cleopatra is still updating us on her movements. All the others were lost, two from a collisions with power lines, one was shot at the Evros Delta, another one was found dead from unknown causes. The only lucky one was Cleopatra. Only? Not exactly! We have a super-lucky pelican, Katerina!

Katerina is in fact not a female pelican, something that we discovered by measuring the beak; males have longer beaks, and Katerina’s is 51 cm long, making ‘her’ a male! So, the truth is that we interfered with the bird’s identity, but his name probably doesn’t concern him a great deal. Besides the name, we also gave him some code numbers: he was now P07, as written on the wingtags that were placed on his wings; in addition, we ringed him with yellow plastic rings on his legs with the code numbers N013 and N014.

After the placement of the transmitter, Katerina stayed in Prespa for another ten days and then left for the reservoir of Polyfytos, where he stayed for the rest of the summer until the beginning of October. From there he flew to the Evros Delta and stayed there for the whole winter. On March 2nd of 2014 Katerina was still at the Evros Delta, but the transmitter had stopped working and we lost trace of her.

Fortunately, there are lots of enthusiastic birdwatchers out there and thanks to the identifying codes that we gave the pelicans, they send us information and sometimes pictures that made it possible for us to be aware of all the birds’ movements. For example, after a month, when the transmitter stopped working, the Management Body of Kerkini informed us that they saw him there. By the end of August of the same year the Management Body of the Evros Delta informed us that they had seen him at a lagoon in their area, so we knew he had returned to his wintering grounds. Up until the end of 2014, the pelican was sighted every month by our colleagues in Evros, who kept us updated on his movement.

At the beginning of the next year, 2015, Katerina was photographed in Kerkini. The picture revealed that he was in breeding plumage as his beak pouch was a deep red color. By the end of summer, Katerina was once again spotted at the Evros Delta and the employees of the management body read the number on the tag and realised that the transmitter had been lost. The transmitter had fallen off, 2 years after its placement on the bird, although since it had fulfilled its function, this was not such bad news. For one more year, the pelican was found at the Evros Delta throughout all the autumn and winter.

At the end of July, 2016, during the organized transboundary pelican count at the Great Prespa Lake, we spotted a pelican with a wingtag and we approached the bird to read the number. It was P07, Katerina! Although something about his behavior was not right, so we went for a closer look. We saw that the pelican was not well, as he did not make any attempt to fly away even though he was very close to the boat; he tried to move away but was too weak. We easily managed to get him onto the boat.

At the SPP offices we gave him first aid and then sent him to Thessaloniki, to the organisation “Wildlife Action”. The results of the examination showed that the cause of his weakness was most probably poisoning. A month later, on 19th August 2016, they sent the pelican back and he was released once more in Prespa. Having removed his wingtags, which were in poor condition, he now only had his yellow plastic rings on his legs. We wished him health and longevity.

One and a half year later we hadn’t had any news. What had happened to Katerina? And then… a few days before the Christmas holidays, colleagues from the Evros Delta informed us that they had seen Katerina in their area. They also sent us a picture of him!

Our Dalmatian pelican has not only survived, but is actually very healthy, his hormones behaving as they should, as Katerina is getting ready for breeding, as well as new adventures. We wish him a happy 2018!

We warmly thank the Management Body of the Evros Delta and the Management Body of Kerkini for their valuable contribution. Without their constant presence in the field and their continual updates with information and pictures, without their enthusiasm and vigilance, we would lose a lot of very useful data about many ringed and marked pelicans. We also thank all the birdwatchers who helped with their photos. Finally, we thank the organisation “Action for Wildlife” who gave Katerina a second chance!