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Merlin Bird ID

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    American White Pelican

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    American White Pelican

    Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
    • ORDER: Pelecaniformes
    • FAMILY: Pelecanidae
    Basic Description

    One of the largest North American birds, the American White Pelican is majestic in the air. The birds soar with incredible steadiness on broad, white-and-black wings. Their large heads and huge, heavy bills give them a prehistoric look. 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. Look for them on inland lakes in summer and near coastlines in winter.

    More ID Info
    image of range map for American White PelicanRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

    Find This Bird

    Though American White Pelicans breed at fewer than 60 colonies in total, their large size and propensity to travel large distances, even when breeding, make finding them fairly straightforward. Finding them depends on where you are and what time of the year it is, so check a range map to find out whether you should be looking in inland sites in the north or coastal spots in the south of the continent. When you’re on the lookout for pelicans, don’t just look at the water surface; scan the skies and you may find large flocks of these immense birds soaring inconspicuously very high up. Though they are typically found along coasts in winter, you can also find large numbers in California’s Central Valley, the Salton Sea, and the Colorado River drainage of California and Arizona. Migrants are often noted in spring or fall passing various western hawkwatches, particularly the Smith Point and Hazel Bazemore hawkwatches in Texas.

    Other Names
    • Pelícano Blanco Americano (Spanish)
    • Pélican d'Amérique (French)
    • Cool Facts