American White Pelican

ANIMAL:
American White Pelican Pelecanus erythrorhynchos

Type of Animal:
Pelican

Habitat:
Islands in shallow wetlands, coastal waters, bays, estuaries, permanent islands in freshwater bodies, temporary wetland islands, islands in freshwater/brackish/saline lakes, ephemeral islands in shallow wetlands on plains, lakes/lake edges, rivers/river edges, wetlands, ponds, catfish aquaculture farms, inlets, sloughs, inland seas, islands in river rapids, marshes, lagoons, freshwater bogs, freshwater swamps, wet prairie, boreal forest wetlands, reservoirs, mountains, desert

Location(s):
North America, Mexico, Central America, N Colombia. Vagrant in Caribbean & parts of US & Canada.

Appearance:
Large heavy white bird w/ black flight feathers, small patch of ornamental feathers on chest become yellow in breeding season, huge yellow-orange beak, short yellow-orange legs, juveniles/subadults white but duskier on head/neck/back-sometimes light gray, breeding individuals have vertical plate near beak tip, short square tail

Food/Diet:
Fish, crustaceans, amphibians

Status in Wild:
Stable

Conservation:
Breeding in zoos & wildlife parks. Protected by Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 & protected in California.

Lifestyle:
Breeding colonies range from 700-34,000 birds. Feeding/migrating flocks often number in hundreds or even low thousands.

Additional Info:

Called:
Male: Cock
Female: Hen
Young: Chick
Group: Colony/Flock

Weight:
Male: 20 lbs
Female: 11 lbs
Young: 3 lbs

Gestation:
9 weeks 

Life Span:
16 years in wild, 26-30 years in captivity

Height:
Male: 3.5-4 ft
Female: 3 ft

Body Length:
Male: 5 ft
Female: 4 ft

Tail Length:
Male: 6.02-6.57 in
Female: 5.31-6.53 in

Main predators of adults are coyotes, crocodilians, eagles, wolves, bears, bobcats, lynx, foxes, & mountain lions. Red-Tailed Hawks, Great Horned Owls, feral cats, & ravens eat subadults/juveniles. Gulls eat chicks.
 
Males have 9.5 ft wingspan, females have 8 ft wingspan-making them have 2nd longest wingspan of any N American bird.
 
Male bill length 13.5 in, female bill length 11.5 in.
 
If multiple eggs hatch, only 1 chick typically survives due to smaller chick (s) starving.
 
They’re kleptoparasites, often stealing food from each other as well as other bird species.
 
Often work together to herd fish into shallows for easier feeding.
 
At around 3.5 weeks old, chicks start forming crèches w/ other chicks while both parents forage, only interacting w/ parents during feeding. Make 1st flight at 9 weeks old & leave colony at 4 months old.

Fun Fact(s):
Can hold 3 gallons of water in bill.
 
Contrary to popular belief, they don’t store day’s catch in pouch for eating later.
 
Beak can hold 3 buckets of fish.
American White Pelican, stock photo

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