Monday, October 4, 2010

American White Pelican

American White PelicanAmerican White Pelican, Forest Grove, Oregon on 19 August 2010 by Greg Gillson.

 

Rarely seen in western Oregon historically, non-breeding American White Pelicans have been summering in variable numbers in the Willamette Valley for about 10 years. This is the second summer in a row that pelicans have summered at the local wetlands where I took the photo above.

With a wingspan up to 9 feet these are the largest flying birds regularly found in the Pacific NW, indeed, all of North America, rivaling the wingspan of the California Condor. (The only larger bird ever recorded in North American, with 2 records, is Wandering Albatross with a 10 or 11 foot wingspan. The other albatrosses found at-sea off North America have wingspans of 7-9 feet.) American White Pelicans are heavy, too. At 16 pounds they are as heavy as a tom Wild Turkey. In North America only the California Condor, Mute Swan, and Trumpeter Swan are heavier.

The following is gleaned from Birds of Oregon: a general reference. 2003. Marshall, Contreras, and Hunter, editors.

In Oregon they nest at a few specialized locations, primarily barren islands in alkaline lakes of SE Oregon, and also on islands in the Columbia River. The nest sites are not necessarily the same from year-to-year; they change nesting locations periodically depending upon water levels. They seem to prefer more shallow lakes where fish concentrate in the receding waters. If such lakes dry up or, conversely, fill up with too much water, they will abandon that location. They easily abandon their nests when disturbed. One colony with 800 nests was abandoned in 1988 when trespassers visited the nesting island by canoe.

There are a few breeding colonies in eastern Washington, mostly on islands in the Columbia River. They breed at scattered sites in southern Idaho. My 1979 book, Birds of Canada, by Godfrey lists only one location for breeding in British Columbia (Stum Lake). But I suspect that, like Oregon, these magnificent birds have become more widespread throughout the Pacific NW in recent years. What can our readers tell us?

17 comments:

  1. According to the NMFS folks who monitor piscivores on the Lower Columbia River, about 60 pair of White Pelicans on Miller Sands which is about 25km east the the Columbia River mouth. Hatchlings were noted by multiple observers (including me).

    The occurrence of White Pelican on the Lower Columbia is a very recent phenomenon. This is the first year that nesting has been documented.

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  2. Saw one at fernhill wetland september 29th, 2012. this appears to be a regular phenomenon.

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  3. Yes, Anonymous, this is the 4th summer in a row that White Pelicans have summered at Fernhill Wetlands in Forest Grove, Oregon. However, there was only one bird this year.

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  4. My husband thinks he saw 100-200 of these birds flying (8-10 stories up) over inner SE Portland at about 10:30 am today, a block from the river. Is this possible? Or did we misidentify them?

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    1. Possibly, Adrienne, up to 220 were seen at Smith-Bybee in NE Portland in September and are likely still around Sauvie Island area msking forays over Portland.

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  5. My husband and I believe we saw a group of about 3-4 American White Pelicans on the NW end of Sauvie Island on 9/26/12.

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  6. You are probably right. Pelicans have been visiting Sauvie Island in summer regularly for several years.

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  7. Saw a flock of maybe 20 white pelicans flying in a V formation over Hood River, Oregon this morning.

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  8. I I saw a flock of about 30 circle over Miller Sands on the late afternoon of September 23rd 2013. Has anyone seen other flocks now hanging out in the Columbia River?

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  9. There are about 200 pelicans roosting on an island by the john day damn

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  10. We are at our cabin on Meacham Lake in eastern Oregon and saw 3 white pelicans on the lake.

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  11. We were kayaking on Sturgeon Lake today (Sauvie Island) and saw a flock of about 300 white pelicans flying northward over the lake. A spectacular sight!

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  12. Just saw three white Pelicans fly over our house in Aumsville (just east of Salem), first time ever. Lived here three years.

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  13. I saw a single White Pelican flying over the Marcum bridge (I-5 downtown PDX) today about 12:30pm. Wow

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  14. On Aug 25th we saw a few dozen white pelicans circling over downtown or inner SE Portland.

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  15. Saw upwards of 400 on the water and flying at Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge on Sunday Sept. 4th 2016...truly awesome sight and sensation as a flock of them flew 30/40 feet above my head.

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  16. Just saw one in Scappoose...but just one flying by itself. Very cool

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