The largest birds in their order: body length 130-180 cm, weight 7-14 kg. The appearance is very characteristic: a clumsy, massive body, large wings, short and thick legs with a wide membrane between the fingers, a short rounded tail. The neck is long. The beak is also long, up to 47 cm, with a hook at the end. On the underside of the beak is a highly extensible leather bag used for catching fish.
The plumage of pelicans is loose, loosely adjacent to the body. Feathers get wet quickly, and birds often “squeeze” them with their beaks. The color is light - white, grayish, often with a pink tint. Flight feathers are usually dark. The beak and bare areas of the “face” are brightly colored, especially during the mating season. Feathers on the back of the head often form a crest. Females are smaller and duller than males; young pelicans are painted in a dirty brown or gray color. The voice during nesting is a dull roar, the rest of the time pelicans are silent.