American White Pelecan
About 62 inches (155 cm) tall with a wingspan of 8-9.5 feet
(2.5-3 m). A large white bird with short legs, black primaries, a
large, long, flat yellow-orange bill, and a huge throat pouch
that is flat when deflated (Peterson, 1990). The bill is 11-15
inches (28-38 cm) long, the feet and legs are yellow (Ligon,
Pelecanus erythrorhynchos is found near lakes, marshes,
salt bays, and beaches (Peterson, 1990).
This species is primarily found from south-central British
Columbia eastward through northeastern Alberta, northwestern
Saskatchewan, central Manitoba, and southwestern Ontario and
south to northern California, western Nevada, northern Utah,
northern Colorado, northeastern South Dakota, and southwestern
Minnesota; occasional on the central coast of Texas and from
central to southern California. Winters along the Pacific coast
from central California and southern Arizona south along the
western lowlands of Mexico to Guatemala and Nicaragua and from
Florida and the Gulf states south along the Gulf coast of Mexico
to Tabasco and the state of Yucatan (American Ornithologists'
The American White Pelican eats fish. It captures them while
swimming. The bill enters the water and scoops up the fish. As
the Pelican resumes a sitting position on the water the bill is
closed, pointed downwards allowing the water to drain from the
pouch; the bill is then raised and the bird swallows (Forbush and
May, 1955). The pouch is capable of holding over 3 gallons of
water (Leahy, 1982).
The nest is usually constructed of sticks, grasses, and reeds
built on the ground. Generally an island on an inland lake is
chosen by this communal nester (Forbush and May, 1955). There are
two to four chalky-white eggs. The incubation period is 1 month.
Both parents feed the young, increasing the chances of two to
three young surviving (Perrins and Middleton, 1985). Nestlings
are very noisy (Leahy, 1982).
Nestlings squeal, while adults are silent with a rare low croak
American Ornithologists' Union. 1983. Check-list of North
American birds, 6th ed. Allen Press, Lawrence, 877 pp.
Forbush, E. H., and J. B. May. 1955. A natural history of
American birds of eastern and central North America. Bramhall
House, New York, 552 pp.
Leahy, C. 1982. The birdwatcher's companion: an encyclopedic
handbook of North American birdlife. Hill and Wang, New York, 917
Ligon, J. S. 1961. New Mexico birds and where to find them. The
University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 360 pp.
Perrins, C. M., and A. L. A. Middleton, eds. 1985. The
encyclopedia of birds. Equinox, Ltd., Oxford, 447 pp.
Peterson, R.T. 1990. A field guide to western birds. Houghton
Mifflin Company, Boston, 432 pp.
Mary Kirschenbaum, July 1996.