The physiological state of captive and migrating Great White Pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus) revealed by their blood chemistry

Marva Shmueli, Ido Izhaki, Oren Zinder, Zeev Arad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Great White Pelican Pelecanus onocrotalus is an endangered migratory bird, threatened by diminishing natural feeding sites and by persecution by fishermen. The majority of the migrating White Pelican (71 000) stop-over in Israel during their autumn migration to Africa. As part of a larger study, aimed to assess the necessity of feeding during the stop-over in Israel, we examined the blood chemistry of captive and migrating White Pelicans. Blood was sampled from captive birds maintained on a fish diet, after food deprivation for 48 h and from wild birds brought from the field during migration. Food deprivation resulted in increased plasma levels of triglycerides and in lower levels of urea, potassium and calcium. In migrating birds, increased plasma levels of urea and CPK and lower levels of creatinine were revealed. In general, the coefficient of variation in the blood chemistry of migrating pelicans was higher than in the captive birds, that is to say, that these birds were in a variable physiological condition. The blood profile of migrating and wintering pelicans did not indicate a state of dehydration but did indicate energy deficiency. The less extreme changes in blood chemistry of the 48 h food-deprived compared to migrating pelicans suggest that the former did not reach a state of starvation. We conclude that for White Pelicans the stop-over in Israel is a must in order to rest and replenish their fuel reserves for completion of their autumn migration to Africa. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-32
Number of pages8
JournalComparative Biochemistry and Physiology - A Molecular and Integrative Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2000

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was supported by the Israeli Inter-University Ecological Fund, the Israeli Ministry of Science and Arts and the Technion Research Fund.


  • Blood chemistry
  • Dehydration
  • Diet
  • Energy
  • Food deprivation
  • Migration
  • Pelecanus onocrotalus
  • Stop-over

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology


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