American White Pelicans

The American White Pelican is one of the largest birds of North America -- at around 62 inches in length.  They have a wingspan of over nine feet.  They spend some time out of water spreading their wings to dry them.  Notice the young tan gull to the right seemingly looking at the large wings in amazement.

Normally the American White Pelican breeds in the northern interior part of the United States (including Idaho, Wyoming and Montana) extending well into Canada.  For nesting, they like lakes and Summer warmth.  For this reason it was nice to see a few of them arrive at Lake Merritt in Downtown Oakland, CA to breed.  They were hundreds of miles from their normal breeding areas.

Oakland, with its temperate Mediterranean climate, combined with the calm waters of Lake Merritt which has many private places for birds to breed, attracted these great birds to nest in that beautiful place.  The cold Pacific waters and strong winds off the coast of San Francisco, especially during Spring and Summer, are not to their liking.  After breeding, they relocate to the warm coasts of Southern California, Baja California, Gulf of Mexico and Florida.

When American White Pelicans are breeding, they grow a "horn" in the middle of their upper beak as seen in this picture taken one gray morning showing American White Pelicans fishing in Lake Merritt.  Unlike Brown Pelicans which dive for their food, American White Pelicans fish for their food while floating on the water.

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