Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Wednesday Bird of the Week: September 12, 2018

American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) preening on a log
floating in Tuttle Creek Lake.
The bird of the week this week has been the most observed species in my weekly reports multiple times in the last couple of months, but has always been too far for me to get pictures of until yesterday. The American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) is not the coastal pelican that most might think of. It spends time more in the middle states during migration.

The American White Pelican is a large, white bird, found near large bodies of water. When in flight, they display their black primaries, which are mostly hidden while they are floating or perched. They have large orange/yellow bills and during breeding season the adults grow a  horn shaped plate on their upper bill. This species is of low conservation concern.

American White Pelican displaying black primaries during flight.
Since the main habitat of the American White Pelican is lakes and ponds, it is no surprise that their diet consists of mainly fish. Sometimes large groups of these birds will even work together to herd small fish into the shallows. They  can dip their large, pouched bills into the water and scoop out fish, or they may even dip their whole bodies under water like a diving duck.

American White Pelicans nest on the ground, laying a clutch of one to three eggs. They prefer flat sites on gravel, sand, or soil near other pelicans.

Although the American White Pelican likes to perch on floating logs, they are fairly clumsy. They use their wings to try and keep balance, but often fall off of their log into the water. Most of the time they seem to just play it off as though they intended to take a little swim anyway.

Next time you are near a large body of water, keep a lookout for these large birds. They are quite fascinating to observe, especially in flight.

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