Pelicans are a genus of large water birds that make up the family Pelecanidae.

The term water bird, alternatively, waterbird or aquatic bird is used to refer to birds that live on or around water.

A genus is a taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms in biology.



They are characterised by a long beak and a large throat pouch used for catching prey and draining water from the scooped-up contents before swallowing.

The beak, bill, and/or rostrum is an external anatomical structure of birds that is used for eating and for preening, manipulating objects, killing prey, fighting, probing for food, courtship and feeding young.

Gular skin, in ornithology, is an area of featherless skin on birds that joins the lower mandible of the beak to the bird's neck.

Predation is a biological interaction where one organism, the predator, kills and eats another organism, its prey.

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They have predominantly pale plumage, the exceptions being the brown and Peruvian pelicans.

Plumage refers both to the layer of feathers that cover a bird and the pattern, colour, and arrangement of those feathers.

Peru, officially the Republic of Peru, is a country in western South America.


The bills, pouches, and bare facial skin of all species become brightly coloured before the breeding season.


The eight living pelican species have a patchy global distribution, ranging latitudinally from the tropics to the temperate zone, though they are absent from interior South America and from polar regions and the open ocean.

In geography, the temperate or tepid climates of Earth occur in the middle latitudes, which span between the tropics and the polar regions of Earth.

The polar regions of Earth, also known as Earth's frigid zones, are the regions of Earth surrounding its geographical poles.


Long thought to be related to frigatebirds, cormorants, tropicbirds, and gannets and boobies, pelicans instead are now known to be most closely related to the shoebill and hamerkop, and are placed in the order Pelecaniformes.

Frigatebirds are a family of seabirds called Fregatidae which are found across all tropical and subtropical oceans.

Phalacrocoracidae is a family of approximately 40 species of aquatic birds commonly known as cormorants and shags.

The shoebill also known as whalehead, whale-headed stork, or shoe-billed stork, is a very large stork-like bird.


Ibises, spoonbills, herons, and bitterns have been classified in the same order.

The herons are long-legged freshwater and coastal birds in the family Ardeidae, with 64 recognised species, some of which are referred to as egrets or bitterns rather than herons.

The ibises are a group of long-legged wading birds in the family Threskiornithidae, that inhabit wetlands, forests and plains.

Bitterns are birds belonging to the subfamily Botaurinae of the heron family Ardeidae.


Fossil evidence of pelicans dates back at least 30 million years to the remains of a beak very similar to that of modern species recovered from Oligocene strata in France.

The Oligocene is a geologic epoch of the Paleogene Period and extends from about 33.9 million to 23 million years before the present.


They are thought to have evolved in the Old World and spread into the Americas; this is reflected in the relationships within the genus as the eight species divide into Old World and New World lineages.

The Old World consists of Africa, Europe, and Asia, regarded collectively as the part of the world known to Europeans before contact with the Americas.


Pelicans frequent inland and coastal waters, where they feed principally on fish, catching them at or near the water surface.


They are gregarious birds, travelling in flocks, hunting cooperatively, and breeding colonially.


Four white-plumaged species tend to nest on the ground, and four brown or grey-plumaged species nest mainly in trees.


The relationship between pelicans and people has often been contentious.


The birds have been persecuted because of their perceived competition with commercial and recreational fishing.


Their populations have fallen through habitat destruction, disturbance, and environmental pollution, and three species are of conservation concern.

Habitat destruction is the process by which a natural habitat becomes incapable of supporting its native species.


They also have a long history of cultural significance in mythology, and in Christian and heraldic iconography.

Iconography, as a branch of art history, studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images: the subjects depicted, the particular compositions and details used to do so, and other elements that are distinct from artistic style.

Mythology can refer to the collected myths of a group of people—their collection of stories they tell to explain nature, history, and customs—or to the study of such myths.

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