With a whopping 9-foot wingspan, an American white pelican takes flight quickly rising up off of the smooth Florida Bay waters. Several others follow along, flying off in a perfect “V-formation” into the glowing orange eastern sunrise.
White pelicans are one of the largest birds in North America. In Florida, the pelicans begin to arrive in November or December to spend the Winter, avoiding the harsh Winter conditions. With white bodies, large yellowish bills and black feathers under their wings, they are easily differentiated from the more common brown pelicans that we also have in the state.
Unlike brown pelicans, white pelicans do not dive for their prey. The white pelicans, instead, will work together as a team encircling fish and crustaceans and then dip their heads in the water to grab their meals. Sometimes, they will also push prey into shallow water as well. A cool sight is watching them work alongside of bottlenose dolphins taking advantage of the dolphins corralling mullet and other fish.
In the Spring, the white pelicans will travel back up North and can be found as far North as Canada and as far West as California on lakes and rivers. Look for them along mangrove islands here in March and also overhead as they begin their migration back up North!