Great White Hope


Photo: Great White Pelican, River Ribble, Lancashire, August 2006 (Tony Disley)

This summer it is the 10 year anniversary of the UKs’ Great White Pelican Summer, a summer when at least 2 Great White Pelicans were at large in the UK and perhaps it is time for a review to get closer to the true story! One of the birds present in the UK gained official acceptance via the Dutch Rarities Committee as a wild bird so perhaps it is also time for the UK authorities to accept this bird onto the official list

The first bird of the summer was at Bough Beech Reservoir in Kent in July 2006 – a bird that had significant missing primary feathers that was generally regarded as evidence of wing clipping amongst the birding community

In August 2006 a bird that had been present in the Netherlands flew into Lancashire via Norfolk, attracting flocks of twitchers, and media, to the River Ribble / Brockholes Lancashire Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve

It was potentially the crowning glory for this freshly established nature reserve, Britains’ first Great White Pelican, and a big reward for the hard work of the Brockholes staff and volunteers

The Dutch authorities duly accepted the bird as wild, so surely the British Ornithologists’ Union, must accept it ? The BOU have still not accepted the species onto the British List, so what is the story ?


Photo: A classic image! The media getting involved in the Lancashire Pelican twitch! (Tony Disley)

In September 2016, both birds seemed to move north to Scotland, whilst at one stage there seemed to be so many sightings that you might have thought there might even be 3 birds present in the UK with North-East England, Anglesey & North Wales joining in the Pelican Party!

With the 2016 West Country Dalmatian Pelican doing a decent job of opening minds to the potential of genuine wild Pelican vagrancy, perhaps the BOU could publish more details on the 2006 Great White Pelican Summer



2 thoughts on “Great White Hope

  1. We saw a pelican flying over Anglesey on Sunday afternoon at grid ref SH 31113 90336 near Mynydd-y-Garn and not far from Cemlyn nature reserve. In fact it may have come from there judging by its direction of travel. The beak was very distinctive being s-shaped exactly like films and photos of pelicans that we have seen. I emailed the RSPB and bird sighting collator Richard gallon. Maybe somebody else has also seen this bird. It was mostly white and didn’t seem too big – definitely not eleven feet across! We,ve never seen anything like it before. Any ideas? Thanks, Chris


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