Dalmatian pelicans on ice, Lake Kerkini, Greece
© Guy Edwardes/Minden Picture
Giants of the avian world
The three shaggy-coiffed birds you see here are Dalmatian pelicans, posing on chilly Lake Kerkini in Greece. These waterfowl are among the largest freshwater bird species in the world, with wingspans stretching as wide as 11 feet. Dalmatian pelicans generally breed during the first four months of the year, building their nests on or near the ground, and sometimes upon vegetation floating in water. While breeding, they form monogamous pairs, though they generally don't pair up for life.
Once breeding season is over, these social birds are on the move, but their annual migrations don’t follow consistent patterns—their travels may find them anywhere from Eastern Europe to Central Asia, Russia to the Indian subcontinent. They travel in search of food, hunting mostly fish and small amphibians. Dalmatians are strong swimmers and fliers, and are said to be meticulous groomers, spending a lot of time preening and splash-bathing themselves between migrations. Unfortunately, because of poaching and shrinking natural habitats, these beautiful birds are endangered, with only 10,000 to 20,000 thought to be remaining in the world.