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White Wings Against a Blue Sky: Look Up for American White Pelicans

Florida’s Adventure Coast is home to colonies of American White Pelicans. You can often spot them soaring above and gathering around area lakes and wetlands.

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One of the largest birds in North America with a nine-foot wingspan, they are second in size only to the California condor.

With its distinctive beak, which comprises a quarter of its length, the American White Pelican can be between four and nearly six feet long.

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They are almost entirely white, except for secondary plumage of black on the underside of the wing tips, visible while in flight.

Unlike their brown pelican cousins, American White Pelicans prefer freshwater inland habitats and do not dive for fish. White Pelicans forage by swimming on the surface, dipping their bill into the water and scooping up fish into their pouch. They consume about four pounds of food per day.

Groups of White Pelicans often work together as a team to corral their food. Their diet consists of “rough” fish not valuable to humans, such as crayfish and salamanders.

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With slow and methodical wing strokes, they are among the heaviest flying birds in the world. Soaring high above, these white-with-black-winged birds are graceful and stunning against a blue sky. Majestic and incredibly steady in flight, you will want to have your camera handy when you see them.

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American White Pelicans are usually on the Hernando Audubon’s list of species observed during the local Christmas and spring bird counts. They winter mainly along our coast on shallow, protected bays and estuaries, as well as on large lakes in warm climates. Often after heavy rains create temporary lakes and ponds, American White Pelicans will take advantage of the extra opportunities for feeding and colonizing.

Learn more about American White Pelicans

Audubon Society

Cornell Lab of Ornithology


All Photos of American White Pelicans by Carole Knudson