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Update, October 30, 2013: I have just been notified that the eBird reviewer for the Middle East Region has accepted this as the first record for Bahrain.

This pelican was photographed by Martin Reid in Bahrain on March 4, 1999. No notes were taken in the field (the full significance was not realised at the time, plus the bird flew after just a few minutes), but my analysis of these images lead me to conclude that it is a Dalmatian Pelican. There are four records of White Pelican for Bahrain, but no records of Dalmatian (despite a historic breeding site being directly across the Gulf, in Iran). Recently I've discovered that small flocks of Dalmatian Pelicans were found wintering along the lower Gulf and Indian Ocean coasts of Iran in Feb 1999 (Philippe Dubois survey report.) BTW the uncropped images clearly show a provable location in Bahrain (in fact I took a local birder there to look for the pelican - unsuccessfully - later that same day.)

I'd be grateful for some feedback on this bird:- is it identifiable? if yes (and presuming it's not an E. White), are these images and details good enough for a first country record?:

FYI the gulls in these pics are mostly Slender-billed (larus genei) with a few Black-headed (L. ridibundus); these four images are crops of the only photos I got - you can see that it flew off while I was watching it, and despite searching it was not seen again:



Here are enlargements of the best two images, with the lighting adjusted to reveal critical detail - all adjustments were made to the whole image, and no selective editing was done:

I feel that the shape of the back of the head, shape of the forehead feathering (relative to the angled position of the head), whitish color of the flight feathers from below, and blackish legs (but see below*) are very strong pointers to Dalmatian. All these features would seem to rule out E. White Pelican, but what about Pink-backed? The leg colour, all-white underwing, and overall size compared to the L. genei do not fit Pink-backed, plus it must be considered much less likely (yet possible) than Dalmatian, given the known ranges. - I would greatly appreciate informed comment.

*: The apparent leg colour on the standing bird:- the sunlit leg looks pinkish-white while the leg more in shadow looks dark blackish - even the lower part that is lit by the sun looks dark grey, with no colour. Also note in the above flight photo that while the bill shows much color, the leg again looks blackish (see comparison image below). Leg colour is often distorted even in original photos and again in the scanning/displaying process (e.g. gull legs can look much more pink-toned than they did in real life). I found a published photo of a standing Dalmatian (picture 294 in Harrison's photo version of "Seabirds of the World") that shows the legs can look whitish in sunlight - I've reproduced it here to demonstrate this effect:


Here I've placed a small version of the Bahrain bird in with some comparison images - all vagrant Dalmatians from Japan - gleaned from the WWW (if you see your photo here and do not want it used, please email and I'll remove it immediately; I reproduce them only to further the identification process); note the apparent leg colour in the first two images:

Here's another Dalmatian from Japan, providing a flight comparison (especially bill and leg, compared to the Bahrain bird)


The following image of Dalmatians from Europe shows how the whole underwing can appear whitish, at certain angles:


The following image shows a yet-to-fledge E. White Pelican, demonstrating how black is the underside of the flight feathers even when juvenile: