By Vicente Labro
Philippine Daily Inquirer
TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines—A rare pelican
species has been sighted in Leyte by a team from the regional
office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Arnulito Viojan of the DENR’s Protected
Areas and Wildlife Division said they discovered what could
be the Spot-billed Pelican (Pelecanus philippensis) at Lake
Bito, Barangay Imelda, MacArthur, Leyte, on Wednesday, while
they were conducting a monitoring of water birds in the area.
The lone pelican was sighted Wednesday morning
resting on a floating bamboo raft inside a fish pen on the
lake. But before Viojan and his team could go near and take
close-up pictures, the bird swam away.
“Residents in the area told us they
first noticed the big bird on the lake on Tuesday,”
Viojan told the Inquirer on Thursday.
Citing information from the “A Guide
to the Birds of the Philippines,” by Robert S. Kennedy,
et. al., Viojan said the the Spot-billed Pelican is believed
to have been extinct “probably since the 1940s.”
A Spot-billed Pelican has white feathers,
dark feet, weighs from 4.1 to 6 kilos and has a flying range
that reaches up to Southern China. The bird’s beak is
pinkish yellow but has black spots on the upper mandible,
according to the Philippine field guide.
Violan said the Spot-billed Pelican once
inhabited Laguna de Bay, the Candaba swamp, the coastal areas
of Bulacan and some parts of Mindanao.
However, Tim Fisher, one of the authors of
“A Guide to the Birds of the Philippines,” said
he believes the bird sighted in Leyte could be a Dalmatian
pelican (Pelecanus crispus), based on pictures sent to him
yesterday by a biodiversity conservation group based in Cebu
“There is a yellow wash of color on
the pelican’s chest. The only pelican likely to end
up in the Philippines is the Dalmatian pelican which is found
in China and moves to Hong Kong during migration season. Because
of the cold front we’ve been experiencing, the pelican
must have flown out to the Philippines,” Briton Fisher
said in a phone interview on Friday.
Stressing that the pelican species needs
to be reconfirmed, he said the Spot-billed Pelican is found
in India and Sri-Lanka and is not likely to turn up in these
He also said the Dalmatian pelican is a rare
bird “and if we could reconfirm it, this would be the
very first time it has been sighted in the Philippines,”
said Fisher, who was in Mt. Kitanglad, Cagayan de Oro, heading
a team of birders at the time of the phone interview.
Viojan, meanwhile, said they were at Lake
Bito conducting a waterfowl census in line with the annual
Asian Waterbird Census from Jan. 10 to 25.
The census, he said, is a regional program
to promote public participation to monitor the distribution
and population of water birds and the status of wetlands.
According to Viojan, Lake Bito in MacArthur,
Leyte, is one of the 12 wetlands in the region that they are