Photo: Оne of the platforms in the “Kalimok-Brushlen” Protected Area, © Damyan Petkov

The seventh international pelican census in the Balkans was conducted from June 1-2. The census aims to collect data on the population and distribution of Dalmatian and Great White Pelicans in the study area. The event was organized within the project “Pelican Way of LIFE” and was coordinated by the Hellenic Ornithological Society (HOS).

Teams from the Bulgarian Society for the Protection of Birds (BSPB) also participated in the international initiative. They visited the wetlands of the greatest importance to the two pelican species in the country – Srebarna Lake, Persin Island, protected area “Kalimok-Brashlen”, Burgas Lakes, the dams Ovcharitsa and Rozov Kladenets, Studen Kladenets, Varna Lake, the islands and the sandy slopes along the Danube.

Photo: Dalmatian Pelican, © Svilen Cheshmedziev/BSPB

341 Dalmatian Pelicans and 647 Great White Pelicans in total were counted in Bulgaria.. The highest number of Dalmatian Pelicans was observed in the three nesting sites of the species in the country: “Kalimok – Brashlen” protected area near the town of Tutrakan – 118 individuals, in the marshes on Persin Island – 62 individuals, and in Srebarna Lake – 24 individuals. The highest number of Great White Pelicans was recorded in the Burgas Lakes area – 408 individuals, the marshes on Persin Island – 63 individuals, and the Yatata protected area near Varna – 33 individuals.

During the Census special attention was paid to the three nesting sites of the Dalmatian Pelican in Bulgaria – Srebarna Lake, Persin Island, and the “Kalimok-Brushlen” Protected Area. Currently, all colonies have young pelicans, many of which are already flying successfully. It is encouraging that the level of the Danube River remained relatively high and constant this season, which is crucial for the condition of the wetlands on Persin Island and in the “Kalimok-Brushlen” Protected Area.

Photo: “Kalimok-Brushlen” Protected Area, © Svilen Cheshmedziev/BSPB

The data collected during the international census will contribute to a better understanding and implementation of conservation activities for both species of pelicans in the Balkans. Cross-border cooperation is key to their protection.

Photo: Great White and Dalmatian pelicans, © Svilen Cheshmedziev/BSPB

It is important to note that immediately after the census, our team successfully tagged with transmitters two young Dalmatian Pelicans hatched in the colony in the “Kalimok-Brushlen” Protected Area. This brings the total number of marked birds from Bulgarian colonies to three, which is a significant achievement and a step forward in the conservation of this majestic species.

Photo: BSPB team, © Vladimir Mladenov/BSPB

The transmitters weigh only a few grams and are placed on a special part of the pelicans’ wing where they cause no discomfort. The marked birds quickly adapt to them and can carry out their daily activities without problems. Immediately after the procedures, the Dalmatian Pelicans were released. Currently, data from the transmitters show that the tagged birds are still in the “Kalimok-Brushlen” Protected Area. Additionally, this season we successfully placed color rings on 27 young pelicans, again from the colony in the protected area near Tutrakan. The last time such ringing of Dalmatian Pelicans was conducted was about 20 years ago at Srebarna Lake.

Placing transmitters on Dalmatian Pelicans is a significant advancement in the study of this rare species. Through the data from the rings and satellite telemetry, scientists can track the movements of the birds and locate the places where pelicans feed, roost, rest, breed, and winter. Additionally, valuable data is obtained on the speed, altitude, and manner of flight in real-time. Thanks to the transmitters, we will learn more about the ecology, movements, and threats to the species, which will help us plan and undertake future conservation measures for its protection.

Photo: Great White Pelicans, © Svilen Cheshmedziev/BSPB

The actions for protecting the Dalmatian pelican are carried out within the project “Pelican Way of LIFE” (LIFE18/NAT/NL/000716), funded by the LIFE Programme of the European Union and with the assistance of the Whitlеy Fund for Nature.