Britain's biggest bird could make a comeback under new rewilding plans, as the Wildlife Trusts call for the government to restore the country's wetlands to their former glory and bring back the dalmatian pelican.
The birds, which are up to six foot in length and have a wingspan of up to 11 feet, disappeared from Britain's wetlands before medieval times, but are present in the fossil record. The majestic species was common 12,000 years ago and bones have been found in peat bogs in Norfolk, East Yorkshire and Somerset from the Bronze and Iron ages.
Eventually, around 2,000 years ago, the drainage of these wetlands, alongside hunting and disturbance, led to the extinction of this majestic bird.
Nikki Williams, Director of Campaigns and Policy at The Wildlife Trusts told The Telegraph: "Pelicans soaring over marshlands would be a fantastic sight - but first we need more, bigger, better wetlands. We want to see the return of species that were once common but before this can be done we must ensure there’s plenty of the right sort of wild habitat first."
The plans were drawn up by rewilding advocate and bird expert Benedict Macdonald, author of Rebirding, who said there are currently a handful of sites left which would be appropriate for the bird. He said: "Soaring effortlessly between the ever-growing marshes of East Anglia, dalmatian pelicans will become the crowning glory of conservation wetlands famous across the world. Their presence is likely to help enhance the protection of fish stocks; a flagship indicator species."
Craig Bennett, the CEO of the Wildlife Trusts, supports the plan but added that a holistic approach to restoring nature needs to be taken by the government rather than approving species one by one.
Dalmatian pelicans are currently found across the Mediterranean and Asia, as well as in Australia and New Zealand.