Big Mac the American White Pelican

Big Mac the American White PelicanPeace River Wildlife Center admitted this American White Pelican on January 5, 2015. He was brought to us by one of our senior rescuers, Mark Kramer. Big Mac came to the center with a wing injury in which was almost had a traumatic self wing amp. Dr. Robin surgically finished the amp as there was no way to save the wing. Big Mac is named after our long time volunteer Pelican feeder, Mac McElwee.

Cool Facts about White Pelicans

The White Pelican does not dive for fish as the Brown Pelican does. Instead, it dips its head underwater to scoop up fish. Several pelicans may fish cooperatively, moving into a circle to concentrate fish, and then dipping their heads under simultaneously to catch fish.

  • Habitat: Breeds mainly on isolated islands in freshwater lakes, forages on inland marshes, lakes, or rivers, favoring shallows. Islands used for breeding are often 30 or more miles from foraging areas. During the non-breeding season, American White Pelicans favor shallow coastal bays, inlets, and estuaries
  • Food: The American White Pelican forages mainly on fish in shallow wetlands; crayfish, tadpoles and salamanders are also eaten. Researchers have found regurgitated fish hooks and lures in colonies, suggesting that pelicans also take game fish that have been injured or slowed by anglers
  • Nest Placement: Nests in colonies on islands that aren’t subject to regular flooding. The eggs are typically laid on bare gravel, sand, or soil with little vegetation in the immediate area. In forested regions, the American White Pelican sometimes will nest under either deciduous or coniferous trees
  • Behavior: The American White Pelican is a graceful flier, either singly, in flight formations, or soaring on thermals in flocks. They soar in different portions of thermals for different distances: wandering flights in lower portions of a thermal, commuting flights at middle heights, and cross-country flights in the upper reaches of thermal columns. They are skilled swimmers, but they do not plunge-dive for prey like their coastal relatives the Brown Pelican. Instead they make shallow dives from the surface of the water or just plunge their heads underwater. They often hunt for food in groups in shallow water
  • Conservation:  American White Pelican numbers have been increasing steadily at a rate of about 3.9 percent per year from 1980 to 2003. On their nesting grounds, pelicans are very sensitive to human disturbance; people, boats, and low-flying planes can cause the birds to leave their nests, exposing eggs and young to excessive heat and predatory gulls. They are also shot, either illegally for trophies or in an attempt to protect fish stocks (although American White Pelicans typically do not eat commercially valuable fish). In the 1960’s, when the pesticide DDT was widely used, pelicans produced thinner eggshells. Because pelicans tend to nest on islands where they are safe from mammalian predators, altered lake levels (flooding or drainage) can render their breeding habitat unsafe. According to NatureServe, populations are of particular concern in California, Idaho, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and British Columbia, Canada

Facts source: Cornell University – All About Birds