Two Dalmatian pelican chicks were born at the Moscow Zoo. Visitors can see the offsprings of this rare bird in the Butterflies and Birds pavilion located in the new part of the zoo. And closer to June, along with their parents, small pelicans will move to the Swamp ― a pond in the new part of the zoo. By then, they will have feathers instead of the down to learn to swim and dive for fish on their own.
“So far, the chicks spend most of their time hiding in the thick feathers of their parents. The chicks were born five days apart, but they look very different. The senior weighs about 1 kg, with his body is almost completely covered with down; while the younger one weighs half as much and its down feathers have just started developing. Within a month and a half, both chicks will be the size of their parents. In a year’s time, after several moults, they will get their curly nape feathers,” said Svetlana Akulova, Director General of the Moscow Zoo.
She added that the ornithologists worried about the younger chick's safety for a few days after its birth. In the wild, the senior chick often pushes the younger one out of the nest in order to avoid competition for the food brought by the parents. Although birds do not have to fight for food in the zoo, the pelicans’ larger chick still strives to pinch the little ones occasionally, demonstrating its superiority.
The chicks will grow up by their third year. Dalmatian pelicans have 120-140 cm long bodies, weighing 7- 10 kg. They have dark grey, almost graphite, feet and white feathers, with a light grey patina on the back. Their bright orange throat pouch becomes redder during the mating season. Pelicans have a peculiar courtship: they shift their feet next to each other, rub their beaks at each other and alternately fly up, demonstrating their strong wings. They have only one partner for their entire life.
In addition to the new-born chicks, the Moscow Zoo has four more Dalmatian pelicans ― two adult breeding couples. In the future, it is planned to send the grown-up pelicans to Russian or European zoos to breed and contribute to the preservation of the Dalmatian pelican population in captivity.
The Dalmatian pelican is the rarest species in the family Pelecanidae. According to rough estimates, there were almost one million Dalmatian pelicans in the 1850s, but in the 20th century, this number decreased dramatically to a few thousands. Today, the Dalmatian pelican is listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and the Red Data Book of the Russian Federation. The Moscow Zoo is an active member of the European population program intended to preserve this species. The main reason for the declining number of these unique birds is the destruction and pollution of their natural habitat.
In the European part of Russia, the nesting spots of Dalmatian pelicans can be found in the deltas of the Kuban, the Volga and the Terek, on the lakes Manych-Gudilo and Manych. They also inhabit the Southern Trans-Urals on the lakes of the Tobol-Ishim interfluve. Dalmatian pelicans spend winters in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, northwest India and southern China.
Until the end of April, the Moscow Zoo is open three hours more ― until 10:00 p.m. During the evening sessions, visitors can watch the animals getting ready for sleep and get to know those who are most active after sunset, such as bats, red pandas, a snow leopard, a puma and an Amur leopard. Those who come for an evening walk dressed as a bat or Batman get free tickets. The rest will need to buy tickets at the Zoo's box office for RUB 500.00 (07:30 a.m. to 05:00 p.m.) and RUB 600.00 (05:00 p.m. to 09:00 p.m.).