Medium-sized and large water birds found worldwide. They have feet with all four toes webbed. Most have a bare throat patch and dysfunctional nostrils. Hence they breathe through their mouths.

They also have a pectinate nail on their longest toe. This is shaped like a comb and is used to brush out and separate their feathers. They feed on fish, squid, or similarorganisms. Nesting is colonial, but individual birds are monogamous. The young hatch from the egg helpless and naked in most. They lack a brood patch. The pelicans, shoebill and hamerkop form a clade within the order, with their next closest relatives being a clade containing the herons, ibises and spoonbills.

The shoebill Balaeniceps rex is a very large stork-like bird. that has previously been classified with the storks in the order Ciconiiformes based on this morphology. However, genetic evidence places it with the Pelecaniformes. The adult is mainly grey while the juveniles are browner. It lives in tropical east Africa in large swamps.


Balaeniceps rex