JIGUET, F., DOXA, A. & ROBERT, A. (2008)

The origin of out-of-range pelicans in Europe: wild bird dispersal or zoo escapes?

Ibis 150(3), Juli 2008:606–618, doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.2008.00830.x


We tested whether spatial and annual patterns of occurrence of out-of-range Great White Pelecanus onocrotalus, Dalmatian Pelecanus crispus and Pink-backed Pelicans Pelecanus rufescens recorded in Europe between 1980 and 2004 supported a natural vagrancy theory. Candidate variables tested were those likely to influence dispersal and escape probability (distance to the usual breeding/wintering range, national captive stock), and wild breeding population sizes and their movements (size of breeding colonies, climate conditions on wintering grounds or during dispersal). Spatial vagrancy patterns supported the hypothesis of wild birds dispersing from their normal range, with decreasing national totals with increasing distance to the usual range for the three species. Annual out-of-range numbers of Great White Pelican were predicted by breeding colony size and breeding success in Greece, with a further effect of Sahel rainfall during the previous year. Annual numbers of Dalmatian Pelican were related to the North Atlantic Oscillation index and to breeding success in Greece. Finally, annual numbers of Pink-backed Pelican were predicted by summer Sahel rainfall, which is known to drive dispersal of the species northwards into the sub-Sahelian steppes during wet summers there. Hence, annual vagrancy patterns in Europe were well predicted for all three species by population size indices, reproductive success and/or climatic components, which presumably influence survival and/or dispersal. We therefore consider that vagrancy patterns were driven by wild birds, whereas escapes – even if potentially numerous – do not create sufficient ‘noise’ to hide these patterns.


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