American White Pelican: Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
With a wingspan as great as nine and a half feet, the American
white pelican is one of North America's largest birds.
In flight, white pelicans have a graceful strong flight and
usually fly in large flocks high in the air and in a V formation.
Adults are a distinctive white with black wing tips. The bill, legs
and toes are reddish-orange or pink.
Unlike the brown pelican, which is found year-round in Florida,
and non-breeding white pelican juveniles, healthy adult white
pelicans are winter visitors to the state. In the summer, white
pelican adults breed in colonies on lakes in the interior of
western Canada and the northwestern United States. Winters are
spent in southern Mexico, southern California and along the Gulf
Coast states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida.
White pelicans feed differently than brown pelicans. They do not
plunge dive as brown pelicans do, instead white pelicans float on
the surface, submerge their heads and scoop up fish. They also
often fish cooperatively in small groups, herding the fish in front
While brown pelicans within peninsular Florida usually nest in
mangroves or other trees , white pelicans build nests right on the
ground. They clear or scrape an area and rim it with dirt, sticks
or other debris.
During the height of the plume trade in the late 1800s, the
feathers of white pelicans were in demand, though they were not as
coveted as the delicate plumes of herons and egrets. White pelicans
and brown pelicans also suffered population declines in the 1960s
and 1970s due to death from direct exposure to pesticides and from
reproductive failure due to eggshell thinning. While populations
have recovered from chemical contamination, pelicans of both
species are still vulnerable to death and disfigurement resulting
from entanglement in monofilament line.