Great white pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus, photographed by Hamed Saber.

Belongs within: Aequornithia.

The Pelecanidae includes the pelicans, distinctive large fishing birds with elongate bills subtended by an expansive gular pouch. Pelicans use this pouch to scoop up water containing fish, straining it out and then swallowing their prey. All living species are included in the genus Pelecanus, with other genera potentially recognised from the fossil record. Among modern pelicans, the brown pelican P. occidentalis and Peruvian pelican P. thagus of the Americas are dark in coloration and capture prey by plunge-diving for prey. The remaining species are mostly white or grey and usually catch fish while swimming on the water's surface. The Australian pelican P. conspicillatus is extensively black on the wings, rump and tail. The American white pelican P. erythrorhynchos develops a laterally flattened horn on the upper surface of the bill during the breeding season that is shed after mating.

<==Pelecanidae [Pelecanida, Pelecanoidea, Pelicanea, Pelicanidae]
    |--Liptornis Ameghino 1894 A94
    |    `--*L. hesternus Ameghino 1894 A94
    `--Pelecanus Linnaeus 1758 CC10 [incl. Catoptropelecanus Reichenbach 1853 CC10, Miopelecanus Cheneval 1984 M02]
         |  i. s.: P. gracilis Milne-Edwards 1863 M11, M02 [=*Miopelecanus gracilis M02]
         |         P. intermedius Fraas 1870 [=Miopelecanus intermedius; incl. P. fraasi Lydekker 1891] M02
         |         P. odessanus Vidgal’m 1886 M02
         |         P. philippensis JT12 [incl. P. roseus Gmelin 1789 CS77, P. onocrotalus roseus RN72]
         |         P. rufescens Gmelin 1789 CS77
         |         P. thagus JT12
         |--P. conspicillatus Temminck 1824 BKB15, CC10 (see below for synonymy)
         `--+--P. occidentalis BKB15
            |    |--P. o. occidentalis E52
            |    `--P. o. carolinensis E52
            `--+--P. erythrorhynchos BKB15
               `--+--*P. onocrotalus Linnaeus 1758 CC10, BKB15, S05 [incl. P. minor Rüppell 1837 non Gmelin 1789 S05]
                  `--P. crispus Bruch 1832 BKB15, CS77

Pelecanus conspicillatus Temminck 1824 BKB15, CC10 [=Catoptropelecanus conspicillatus CC10; incl. P. australis Stephens in Shaw 1826 CC10, P. conspicillatus novaezealandiae Scarlett 1966 CC10, *Catoptropelecanus perspicillatus Reichenbach 1853 CC10, P. proavus De Vis 1892 CC10, P. spectabilis Salvado 1851 WS48, P. conspicillatus westralis Mathews 1912 CC10]

*Type species of generic name indicated


[A94] Ameghino, F. 1894. Sur les oiseaux fossiles de Patagonie et la aune mammalogique des couches a Pyrotherium. Boletín del Instituto Geográfico Argentino 15 (11–12): 501–602.

[BKB15] Burleigh, J. G., R. T. Kimball & E. L. Braun. 2015. Building the avian tree of life using a large-scale, sparse supermatrix. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 84: 53–63.

[CC10] Checklist Committee (OSNZ). 2010. Checklist of the Birds of New Zealand, Norfolk and Macquarie Islands, and the Ross Dependency, Antarctica 4th ed. Ornithological Society of New Zealand and Te Papa Press: Wellington.

[CS77] Cramp, S., & K. E. L. Simmons (eds) 1977. Handbook of the Birds of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa: The Birds of the Western Palaearctic vol. 1. Ostrich to Ducks. Oxford University Press: Oxford.

[E52] Eisenmann, E. 1952. Annotated list of birds of Barro Colorado Island, Panama Canal Zone. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections 117 (5): 1–62.

[JT12] Jetz, W., G. H. Thomas, J. B. Joy, K. Hartmann & A. Ø. Mooers. 2012. The global diversity of birds in space and time. Nature 491: 444–448.

[M11] Mayr, G. 2011. Cenozoic mystery birds—on the phylogenetic affinities of the bony-toothed birds (Pelagornithidae). Zoologica Scripta 40: 448–467.

[M02] Mlíkovský, J. 2002. Cenozoic Birds of the World. Part 1: Europe. Ninox Press: Praha.

[RN72] Rutgers, A., & K. A. Norris (eds) 1972. Encyclopaedia of Aviculture vol. 1. London, Blandford Press.

[S05] Steinheimer, F. D. 2005. Eduard Rüppel’s avian types at the Natural History Museum, Tring (Aves). Senckenbergiana Biologica 85 (2): 233–264.

[WS48] Whittell, H. M., & D. L. Serventy. 1948. A systematic list of the birds of Western Australia. Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery of Western Australia, Special Publication 1: 1–126.

Last updated: 27 November 2021.

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