The Dalmatian pelican is the most massive member of the pelican family, and perhaps the world’s largest freshwater bird, although rivaled in weight and length by the largest swans. They are elegant soaring birds, with wingspans that rival that of the great albatross, and their flocks fly in graceful synchrony. It is a short to medium distance migrant between breeding and overwintering areas. As with other pelicans, the males are larger than the females, and likewise their diet is mainly fish. Their curly nape feathers, grey legs and silvery-white plumage are distinguishing features, and the wings appear solid grey in flight.
Their harsh vocalizations become more pronounced during the mating season. They breed from southeastern Europe to Russia, India and China in swamps and shallow lakes. They usually return to traditional breeding sites, where they are less social than other pelican species. Their nests are crude heaps of vegetation, which are placed on islands or on dense mats of vegetation.
This huge bird is by a slight margin the largest of the pelican species and one of the largest living bird species. It measures 160 to 183 cm in length, 7 –15 kg in weight and 245 to 351 cm in wingspan. Its median weight is around 11.5 kg, which makes it perhaps the world’s heaviest flying bird species, although the largest individuals among male bustards and swans may be heavier than the largest individual Dalmatian pelican.