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American White Pelican

The American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) is a very large (50″”“70″) white bird with black wing tips and an enormous orange bill. They have a wing span of approximately 3 m and are graceful in flight, moving their wings in slow powerful strokes.

Unlike the Brown Pelican, the American White Pelican does not dive for its food. Instead it practices cooperative fishing. Each bird eats more than 4 pounds of fish a day, mostly carp, chubs, shiners, perch, catfish, and jackfish.

White Pelicans nest in colonies of several hundred pairs on islands in remote brackish and freshwater lakes of inland North America. The female lays 2 or 3 eggs in a shallow depression on the ground. Both parents incubate.

They winter in central California and along the Pacific coast of Guatemala; also along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico.

Shooting by poachers is the largest known cause of mortality. Colonies are sensitive to disturbance and visits by humans can cause the pelicans to leave and abandon their nests.

This species is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1972.

The scientific name for this species combines Pelecanus, the Latin for pelican, with erythrorhynchos, derived from the Greek words erythros meaning red, and rhynchos meaning beak.

American White Pelican


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