Wednesday, August 11, 2010

American White Pelicans

I've seen American White Pelicans in several locations in the past few years: Yellowstone National Park, WY, Rowe Wildlife Sanctuary along the Platte River in Nebraska, Horicon Marsh Wildlife Refuge, WI, and here in Northern IL, I've spotted them on the Rock River and just a couple days ago hundreds of them in several flocks on the Mighty Mississippi River (Below, 8-7-10) near Mississippi Palisades State Park and Savanna, IL.  My "The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America" doesn't say they spend the summer on these rivers, but just use them as migratory lanes to their Eastern winter grounds would be located in Southern Florida, and along the Gulf Coast. In the West, they winter along Southern California's Pacific coast all the way down into Mexico's Baja Peninsula. It's hard to believe that they are already migrating in early August. Researching this I've read that they migrate South in early September through November.

A large flock of American White Pelicans on the Mississippi River with a tiny Ring-billed Gull hanging around hoping for a free meal the Pelicans may have left behind.

In the past I've seen White Pelicans in small flocks of perhaps a dozen or so. So when we were motoring down the Mississippi a couple days ago in a friend's boat, I was stunned to see them in flocks of hundreds. It was a cool sight. I thank my friend who in his effort to get me closer to the flock (Below, 8-7-10), his boat got stuck in the weeds, so he and his son had to hop out and wade through the river weeds to push the boat into safer waters - all the while I was taking pictures. Thanks, Lon and Zach - you guys are great. Some of the Pelicans have a grayish or black feathers on the back of their heads - from what I read this could be one of two reasons: 1.) After White Pelicans are finished with mating, some of their white breeding feathers turn black, or 2.) Juvenile Pelicans have not mature into their complete white feathers yet.

(Above) A nice view of the White Pelican's expandable pouch under its lower beak. The pouch is used to scoop up its meals of small fish, amphibians and crustacians, unlike their cousins (The Brown Pelican) which dive for their prey.

Take the Pelican challenge in the photo below...

Which one is not like the others?
(hint - at least three acceptable correct answers). I'll give you my answers tomorrow. Perhaps you'll find answers other than what I am thinking.


~Val said...

Hmmm...I see two differences....

Chesney said...

I think I see 1....looking for more! :)

I love that top panorama, how beautiful (and crowded)!

Anonymous said...

So why do the white pelicans have black feathers on the edges of their wings?