Backyard Birds: Pelicans white and pelicans brown

Monday, September 20, 2021

White pelicans at Deer Lagoon on Whidbey Island
Photo by Alan Estep

By Cynthia Sheridan

Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones, who has spotted an American white pelican in or around Edmonds in the past few years.

There is a reason for this. Since 2016 residents on nearby Whidbey Island have been enjoying the presence of a growing number of white pelicans. 

According to local biologist/physician David Whelton, The Deer Lagoon flock on Whidbey is not a breeding population, at least not yet. However, duck hunting has been banned and the 379 acres has been declared an “Important Bird Area” by the Audubon Society… an ideal area for these young birds. 

This is the fifth year White Pelicans have visited Deer Lagoon and it takes up to four years for pelicans to mature and begin mating.

White pelican on Whidbey Island
Photo by Alan Estep

Look for these white winged beauties in flight, which is much easier than seeing them in the water. They are hard to miss (usually during the summer months) and maintain a ten foot wingspan when flying. 

They can soar up to 10,000 feet or fly low over the waves and also forage up to 100 miles a day. American White Pelicans are social animals. They cooperate to herd and scoop up minnows, salamanders and water bugs while also taking in lots of water in their pouches.

You will probably not spot any brown pelicans, which number seven to ten thousand in Washington's outer coastal waters, mainly from late April through October (Wahl 2005).

Brown pelicans at Ecola Creek in Cannon Beach
Photo by Alan Estep

Brown pelicans gather in communal roosts on sandy islands, exposed shoals, and a few artificial structures in the Columbia River, Grays Harbor, and Willapa Bay estuaries, and rocky islands off the coast of the Olympic Peninsula.

Brown pelican in flight at Ecola Creek in Cannon Beach
Photo by Alan Estep

Small numbers occur in the Straits of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound. Brown Pelicans are a common sight along the Oregon coast, hunting crustaceans in the estuary or roosting on rocky outcrops. They form neat, V-shaped formations as they cruise over the surf searching for schools of fish.

Fortunately, at this time neither species is endangered.

Photographer Alan Estep is a long time Shoreline resident now retired in Mt. Vernon

Correction: the white pelicans are on Whidbey Island


Post a Comment

We encourage the thoughtful sharing of information and ideas. We expect comments to be civil and respectful, with no personal attacks or offensive language. We reserve the right to delete any comment.
Facebook: Shoreline Area News
Twitter: @ShorelineArea
Daily Email edition (don't forget to respond to the email)

  © Blogger template The Professional Template II by 2009

Back to TOP