white pelican

American White Pelican

The American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) is a very large (50"–70") white bird with black wing tips and a long, wide orange bill. It has a wing span of up to 110 inches and typically weigh about 7 kg (15.5 lb). It's binomial name combines Pelecanus, the Latin for pelican, with erythrorhynchos, derived from the Greek words erythros meaning red, and rhynchos meaning beak.


Unlike the Brown Pelican, the American White Pelican does not dive for its food. Instead it feeds while swimming. Each bird eats more than 4 pounds of fish a day, mostly carp, chubs, shiners, yellow perch, catfish, and jackfish.


White Pelicans nest in colonies of several hundred pairs on islands in remote brackish and freshwater lakes of inland North America. The most northerly nesting colony can be found on islands in the rapids of the Slave River between Fort Fitzgerald, Alberta and Fort Smith, Northwest Territories. About 10-20% of the population uses Gunnison Island in the Great Basin's Great Salt Lake as a nesting ground. The female lays 2 or 3 eggs in a shallow depression on the ground. Both parents incubate.

They winter in central California and along the Pacific coast of Guatemala; also along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, its bays and estuaries and along the Mississippi river at least as far north as St. Louis.

Management concerns

This species is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. It has the California Department of Fish and Game protective status California Species of Special Concern (CSC).

Habitat loss is the largest known cause of nesting failure, with flooding and drought being recurrent problems. Predation by coyotes, ravens and gulls is common. Human-related losses include entanglement in fishing gear, boating disturbance and poaching as well as additional habitat degradation.

See also



  • Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern

External links

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