Hello Stalkers! Welcome to the twenty-ninth issue of Stalking Mike Blair Outdoors! We hope you’re enjoying your summer. It’s going by quickly! We have a new goal for our Facebook page. Right now we’re at 251 likes (thanks to you wonderful people) our new goal is to reach 300 likes. Will you help us get there? At the top of the Facebook page you can click the button with the dots, share the page and invite your friends. Help us reach our goal and spread Mike’s work even further! We’re counting on you!
You may be seeing these birds during your trips to the lake or when you vacation on the coast. These birds are one of largest birds in North America and near the top of the list of the largest birds that fly in the world. The American White Pelican is easy to spot and simple to identify. These huge birds have a large head and long neck, with large, heavy bills that almost give them a pre-historic look. They’re completely white except for on the broad wings, you can see their black flight feathers when they have them extended.
When in flight these birds are surprisingly steady and incredibly graceful. Their webbed feet give them the advantage of water-ski landings and aid in their quick swimming. However, on land they are awkward and seem to roll forward with a quick walk. You can find these birds either solo or traveling in a flock.
The American White Pelican’s life depends solely on the presence of water. During the summer they can be found on and near inland lakes. During the winter they are found on and near the coastlines and other places where the water doesn’t freeze over. They breed (during the summer) on isolated islands in freshwater lakes or shallow wetlands. They look for flat places on these islands that contain sand, gravel, or small vegetation.
Making the location of their nest neat other pelicans in the same stage of breeding, the pair uses their large bills to rake up surrounding gravel, sand, soil and vegetation to create a shallow depression. Neither of the pair will leave the site to gather material; they solely use materials that are already at the nest site. A pelican pair will have one brood consisting of usually two eggs. An interesting fact about these birds is that the embryos will squawk before hatching to express their discomfort if the conditions get too hot or cold. Although a female will lay two eggs, only one chick per nest will usually survive. One will harass or kill the other, a behavior known as siblicide.
An American White Pelican will provide roughly 150 pounds of food to nourish it’s chick from birth to the time it’s ready to forage on it’s own. When they’re born they are vulnerable and can’t walk. They can crawl by 1 to 2 weeks of age. By three weeks they can walk with the body off the ground and can swim once they reach water. Eventually they work up to running, then running with flapping wings. At nine to ten weeks, they can fly.
The pelican’s main diet is of fish. They dip their pouched bills to scoop fish and then tip it back to swallow their prey. Unlike seen in cartoons and other sources, pelicans do not retain the food in their beak. They swallow their prey before taking flight. Pelicans will occasionally take to deeper waters to find fish but they mainly like to forage in shallow waters. Sometimes groups of pelicans will work together to herd fish into the shallows for easy pickings. They particularly like small fish such as minnows, carp and suckers, but they will also feed on sluggish bottom feeders, salamanders, tadpoles and crayfish. These birds are opportunistic feeders, meaning they will eat what they can find so their diet will depend on changes in the water level and prey abundance in that area. They are also skillful food thieves and will steal the food of others when they can.
A fun fact about the American White Pelican is that these are big birds that can overheat when they’re out in the hot sun. They will face away from the sun and flutter their bill pouches. These pouches have many blood vessels that let the body heat escape and the bird shed heat. Incubating parents may also stretch their wings wide to aid in cooling.
Have you seen these large birds hanging out around your favorite watering hole? We want to hear your stories. Share them and any pictures you may have with us on here or on our Facebook Page. Don’t forget to invite your friends to like our page to help us meet our goal! Stay cool, Stalkers and enjoy the wonderful outdoors!
Be sure to check out the American White Pelican Photo Gallery!