Indirect Cannibalism by Crèche-aged American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) Chicks

Alisa J. Bartos, Marsha A. Sovada, Lawrence D. Igl, Pamela J. Pietz


At nesting colonies of American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos), many chicks die from siblicide, severe weather, and disease; this results in carcasses available for scavenging by conspecifics (i.e., indirect cannibalism). Indirect cannibalism has not been reported previously for this species. We describe five cases of crèche-aged American White Pelican chicks consuming or attempting to consume dead younger chicks at two nesting colonies in the northern plains of North America. Cannibalism in the American White Pelican appears to be rare and likely plays no role in the species’ population ecology or dynamics; however, it might be an important survival strategy of individual chicks when food resources are limited.


American White Pelican; Pelecanus erythrorhynchos; indirect cannibalism; conspecific scavenging; colonial waterbirds; northern plains; North Dakota; South Dakota

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