AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN

AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

The American white pelican is one of the largest birds in North America, with a length of around 150 cm (60 in.) and an average wingspan of 2.8 meters (110 in.). Yet it can soar on favorable winds with great ease. They fly in groups, either in line or ‘V’ formations.

The bird is white except for the wing tips which are black. It has an orange, very large specialized bill, which includes an extensible pouch to scoop up fish and filter out water. The pouch is not for carrying food, contrary to popular belief. The breeding male will grow an appendice on the top part of the bill near the tip. The feet are orange. The sexes are similar.

The breeding habitat of the American white pelican is on wetlands in the middle of the USA and Canada, up north almost to the Northwest Territories. Around 20% of the species breed in the boreal forest. They build their nests in groups, and double-crested cormorants can sometimes be found with them. These birds will cooperate when hunting small fish in shallow water, bringing the fish closer together to scoop them up.

The American white pelican does not breed on PEI, and sightings have been accidental, for example one bird that was seen at Malpeque Bay on August 13, 1983, and another one that occurred on May 28, 2006, at Black Pond. The latter observed bird was the 4th documented report on the island. Then in November 2012, an American white pelican likely got blown off course from super storm Sandy and ended up in PEI, as per this article.

American white pelicans - Rockport Country Club, TX - Jan. 31, 2017 - by Jodi Arsenault
American white pelicans – Rockport Country Club, TX – Jan. 31, 2017 – by Jodi Arsenault

Brown & American white pelicans - Aransas Bay, TX - Sept. 17, 2016 - by Jodi Arsenault
Brown & American white pelicans – Aransas Bay, TX – Sept. 17, 2016 – by Jodi Arsenault
American white pelican - Fulton Harbour, TX - Mar. 7, 2017 - by Jodi Arsenault
American white pelican – Fulton Harbour, TX – Mar. 7, 2017 – by Jodi Arsenault

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