A rare species throughout its range, the Dalmatian Pelican can be found in Armenia within the Lake Sevan basin, the Armash fish ponds, and Lake Arpi. This large, white pelican is characterized by its red-orange pouch, nearly all white under-wings, and curly nape feathers. Listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and endangered in Armenia, the only breeding population in Armenia can be found on Lake Arpi where it sporadically nests on one islet.
Prior to the late 1980s, Dalmatian Pelicans were not known to nest within Armenia, despite being observed in the summertime in all large reservoirs in the Araks River valley. After Lake Arpi was converted to a reservoir (date), the increased water level created two islets on which one was chosen as suitable nesting habitat. The number of nesting pairs has varied from two to six depending on the year.
Beginning in 2006, ASPB monitored the small breeding population in Lake Arpi and assessed threats to future breeding success, which included nest site disturbance by fisherman and juvenile entanglement in fish nets. Consequently, ASPB has raised local awareness of this globally threatened species through contact with village authorities and local land users within the Lake Arpi IBA.
Due to the pelicans' inconsistent breeding on Lake Arpi, more studies are necessary in the tri-border region between Armenia, Georgia, and Turkey. Large lakes are found in relative close proximity and allowing pelicans to congregate at either of the three lakes. Breeding colonies and their success need to be monitored at each site in order to gain understanding of the Dalmatian Pelican's ecology in this area as a whole. Unfortunately, lack of funding for trans-boundary research and relevant capacity by respective organizations in this particular region limits these studies greatly.
Threats to the Dalmatian Pelican
The largest threat concerning pelicans at Lake Arpi is industrial fishing during breeding season. Fishermen often use the island that the birds nest on, causing disturbance to the birds and degrading suitable nesting habitat. Juvenile pelicans also become ensnared in the nets that are spread out across areas of the lake, increasing fatalities. The relevant licensing authorities should require floating deterrents on nets and issue fishing licenses only after the breeding period has ended.
Prefers open, deeper water with no vegetation, but can also be found in shallower bodies of water with some vegetation coverage. The Dalmatian Pelican occurs throughout the Lake Sevan basin, Lake Arpi, and the Akhurian Reservoir.
These areas provide suitable deep and open bodies of water that the birds frequent. The Armash fish ponds are also an area where the pelicans congregate, particularly in the summer, despite the ponds being shallower.
Education and Outreach
Local communities play a vital role in ensuring the continued presence of Dalmatian Pelicans on their breeding and summer grounds. Starting in 2006, we annually visited schools in ten local communities within the Shirak Region, where Lake Arpi is found, providing information about this species and its ecological role. Communication with local communities around Lake Arpi is carried out year round through the local IBA Caretaker, who maintains contact with fisherman, shepherds, villagers and their school children to ensure their understanding of the needs this threatened species has.