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Nature in it's glory

Nature in it's glory

Jul 28, 2011

Birds of Alberta: White Pelican

White Pelicans Flying over
I am never more delighted than when I discover a bird I didn't expect to see where I live.  I have made several such discoveries in the last couple of years.  One of these is the White Pelican.   When I took the photos, I was naturally already speculating about what species of bird I might have captured on camera.  The Pelicans were flying at a distance that was the very limit of my camera's telescopic range, and I was burning with curiosity to see them.  Although I was not very optimistic about the quality of those photos, because at that distance, these photos are rarely useful.

When I loaded the photos into my computer at the end of the day however, not only did my pictures turn out alright, I received an amazing shock.   After all, where do you expect to see Pelicans but in the tropics.  I was also very, very happy at the same time.  Especially when, after doing some immediate research, I discovered that these White Pelicans weren't just doing a fly over.  They nest in Alberta and only a short distance away.  Well for Pelicans with a nine foot wingspan anyway.

White Pelicans in the sky over Edmonton
So here is what I have learned about White Pelicans so far.  They are still listed as a "Sensitive" species.  Which means that they are recovering from near extinction, but are not out of the woods yet.  In order to protect the species, the Alberta government has declared it illegal to get within eight hundred meters of their nesting colonies.  There is a very good reason for that.  White Pelicans will abandon their nesting colonies, eggs, chicks and all, if disturbed by humans.

White Pelicans flying over tree tops
White Pelicans prefer fresh water lakes and rivers.  They nest in colonies on islands, away from large predators and humans.  Unlike the Brown Pelican, these birds do not dive into the water in order to catch fish, they scoop them up, along with about three gallons of water, with the pouch built into the underside of their incredibly large bill.  The water is then squeezed out before the Pelican tips back it's head to swallow.  They also eat salamander, crayfish and frogs.  They have been known to fly up to seventy miles from colonies to better feeding grounds.
Last White Pelican in my sights
Here in Alberta, some areas that the White Pelican can be seen are the Slave river region, the Bow River and Carseland.


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