Understanding sociality and behavior change associated with a nesting event in a captive flock of great white pelicans

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
James E Brereton, James Fryer, Paul E Rose
Zoo Biology
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Zoo‐housed pelicans are commonplace, but their breeding record is poor and little research is published on the activity patterns, as potential predictors of nesting, of captive flocks. Existing literature shows that comparative research can provide useful information for husbandry and conservation planning for pelican populations. The opportunity arose to investigate the time‐activity budget and social network of a breeding flock of captive great white pelicans. Three chicks were hatched in June and July 2016 and one in March 2017. Data on state behaviors, space use, and association preferences were collected around these nesting events, from October 2016 to February 2017 and July to October 2017. Results suggest that pre‐nesting periods were associated with heightened flock‐wide vigilance, suggesting that vigilance may be a precursor for courtship or nesting activity. Social network analysis revealed nonrandom associations between birds and a social structure across the flock, in which subadults seemed to associate more with each other than with adult birds. A limited visitor effect was noted; whilst no overall behavior change was apparent with different numbers of visitors, pelicans did widen their enclosure usage with increased visitor presence. These data are relevant to those attempting to breed this pelican, who wish to know more about the daily behavior patterns of this species across the season and physiological state, and who wish to understand pelican social structure, which is useful to the planning and implementation of bird moves or changes to the social environment of the flock. Further extending such research to include uninterrupted observation over a successful breeding event is recommended.


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