While we are passing through a challenging time due to COVID-19, the circumstances have not been the same for the Dalmatian Pelicans’ colony in Divjaka Karavasta National Park. The end of the breeding season for the Dalmatian Pelicans (Pelecanus crispus) is approaching and presently, the Pelican’s island is inhabited by new offspring, the next generation of Dalmatian Pelicans – that means it is time to provide a synthesis of the data related to nesting during this season.

Before showing the first results of this data, let’s look back at the conservation measures implemented jointly by the AOS team, local supporters, and the Regional Administration of Protected Areas Fier. Since the beginning of December, after the AOS field-team was alerted by the colony with its typical signals (orange-red pouch, curly feathers) that the breeding season was approaching, our work started with the rehabilitation of the Dalmatian Pelicans’ breeding beds. Subsequently, night warding of the Dalmatian Pelican colony started immediately after several pairs began inhabiting the Pelicans’ islands in order to prevent any sort of human disturbance causing the abandonment of breeding activity. Additionally, several activities took place for raising awareness on conservation efforts for the Dalmatian Pelicans and Divjaka-Karavasta National Park and continuous monitoring of the number of breeding pairs and breeding success.

The monitoring process of the Dalmatian Pelicans’ colony recorded exactly 85 pairs in 2020, the highest number of breeding pairs in the last 40 years. The latest direct observation revealed the first results of fledgling offspring of the Dalmatian Pelicans breeding in the Pelicans’ islands. The colony, divided into three small sub-colonies, is producing about 65 fledgling birds, although this number is expected to be adjusted in the coming days.

Monitoring is showing the number of breeding pairs depends strongly on several factors (i) space for reproduction or reproductive beds created by the joint efforts of the Park Administration, AOS and representatives of the Noe Foundation, (ii) the protection of the colony, mainly at night, to avoid human disturbance. While breeding success is also positively affected by the above measures, we would expect it to be higher, thus creating room for some possible hypotheses that rank among the limiting factors: predation and food capacities.

Predation is often rumored to be a limiting factor but remains unproven in our case. Meanwhile, the lack of food has been proven by previous studies of foreign colleagues as an important limiting factor in lagoon ecosystems and this may be the case for Divjaka-Karavasta.

In the coming seasons, our work will focus precisely on further consideration of these hypotheses, which will give us the opportunity to learn the current carrying capacities of the Dalmatian Pelican colony in the Divjaka-Karavasta wetland complex. This will help determine what management measures need to be taken in the coming years.

The conservation measures and monitoring of the Dalmatian Pelicans’ colony in Divjaka-Karavasta National Park is supported by CEPF (Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund) within the framework of ‘Let’s make Divjaka Natural Again project in collaboration with PSEDA-Iliria and ResPublica.

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