Hope for the Dalmatian pelicans in Romania

March 27, 2023

An international census of wintering Dalmatian pelicans, which also took place in Romania at the end of 2022, shows encouraging results for the species population in the area.

The Dalmatian pelican overwinters and also nests in the Danube delta.
Sebastian Bugariu / SOR


The counts were made simultaneously by 10 teams from the Romanian Ornithological Society with partners. They visited all sites of the “Pelican Way of LIFE” initiative and in general the distribution area of the species in Romania. These included the Mostiștei Valley, the Iezer Călărași area, the lower Olt Valley and the confluence of the Olt with the Danube, Bistreț, the Danube Delta and the lagoon area, as well as the sites in the southwest of Dobrogea (Bugeac, Oltina, Dunăreni, Vederoasa) and on the Black Sea coast. During the field visits in the Danube Delta and the lagoon area, the SOR teams were also accompanied by agents from the Administration of the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve (ARBDD), which is the partner of the initiative.

“Winter monitoring is an assessment of the sites important for the species. During the assessment, we observe the areas where large numbers of Dalmatian pelicans gather in order to estimate the proportion of adult and immature birds, to check the color rings, and various other data as much as possible. However, the most important thing is to identify the areas that concentrate many Dalmatian pelicans. This aspect is important both for the management of the respective areas and for seeing the dynamics of the species during the winter”, said SOR biologist Sebastian Bugariu.


The scientists investigated the distribution area of the Dalmatian pelican in Romania.
Judit Veres-Szászka / SOR


As a result of the census, 794 Dalmatian pelicans were reported wintering in Romania. Of these, three-quarters were adults and one-quarter were immature birds. Considering last year’s bird flu episode and the negative impact of the epidemic on the breeding pelican population across the region, the winter monitoring numbers are encouraging. Thus, during the previous winter counts in Romania in December 2021, before the bird flu attack, the scientists reported 691 Dalmatian pelicans in the country. Although the spring counts in 2022 showed a decrease of approximately 20% of the nesting population of the species in Romania. So, the results of the last winter counts may signal that the population of the Dalmatian pelican in the area is recovering quite quickly.


The distribution of the Dalmatian pelicans in Romania in winter according to the data of the census held in mid-December 2022.


For the species population in the Danube basin (Ukraine, Romania and Bulgaria) the winter count is performed synchronously in mid-December in order to have a clearer picture of the birds on winter grounds. Unfortunately, the results of the last census in Bulgaria were not so promising: a total of 754 Dalmatian pelicans were counted at the end of 2022, in comparison to 1,469 individuals reported in the country during the 2021 winter census. In Ukraine, the delta territory was investigated only partly because of the war restrictions, resulting in the lower reported figures.

Winter monitoring took place within the “Pelican Way of LIFE” initiative, coordinated by Rewilding Europe and funded by the LIFE Programme of the European Union and Arcadia Foundation.


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