White pelicans

New bird for the blog: American White Pelican!

We found a small group of them at the Port Mayaca lock and dam between Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie Canal, in Martin County. It is a consistent winter location for these unusual birds.

American White Pelicans breed mainly on isolated islands in freshwater lakes or, in the northern Great Plains, on ephemeral islands in shallow wetlands.

And….

In the winter, they favor coastal bays, inlets, estuaries, and sloughs where they can forage in shallow water and rest on exposed spots like sandbars. 

There were two groups of White Pelicans at the dam last Saturday. This group was resting and preening on a sort of a sandbar.

Note the Snowy Egret on the left, for size. White Pelicans are one of the largest birds in North America, almost one-third bigger than Brown Pelicans.

Another small group of White Pelicans was dip fishing nearby. So different from the way Brown Pelicans dive.

On the water they dip their pouched bills to scoop up fish, or tip-up like an oversized dabbling duck. Sometimes, groups of pelicans work together to herd fish into the shallows for easy feeding.

Strange and lovely birds, wonderful to get a good look at them.

One man’s work to protect White Pelicans from plume hunters in the early 1900s led to the creation of the first U.S. National Wildlife Refuge at Pelican Island in Vero Beach. Read the story at Atlas Obscura: Pelican Island.