Pelican fly-by

Last night, a bit before 7, J and I had just sat down for dinner when J got a work phone-call. I continued twirling my spaghetti, took a mouthful and gazed dreamily out the window. Our fourth floor, kitchen/dining room window faces north toward a narrow strip of mixed-deciduous-coniferous forest, followed by a strip of tall, downtown buildings and a wide top strip of sky (which was then grey). The Saskatchewan River is hidden in a valley between the trees and the skyscrapers.

A small group of mostly-white-with-a-bit-of-black birds appeared in the sky. Not quite gulls… Pelicans! I ran to the bedroom, grabbed my camera and when I returned to the window, the pelicans were still in my window-sky.

For some reason, they stayed in the vicinity of my apartment building for about 4 minutes. I saw the group fly in a few tight circles, so maybe they were spiralling up on air drafts?


The last two photos were taken from my balcony while the others were taken through my kitchen/dining room window. For the last photo, I leaned out over the porch railing as the pelican flew overhead. I included two short flight sequences; I found them fun to speed-click through in slideshow mode.

American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) are not commonly seen in Edmonton, but they do breed in some of the cities wetlands [1]. Breeding adults, both males and females, grow a “horn” on their upper bill, which can be seen in one of the five pelicans I photographed. When mating and egg-laying are complete, the birds shed this “horn” [2]. Pelicans are large birds with wingspans of up to 3 metres [1]. Their black feathers can only be seen in flight [1].

[1] https://natureedmonton.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/the-american-white-pelican/
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_white_pelican

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30 Comments

  1. Great shots! Pelicans are some of my favorite birds. We actually have the white variety in New Mexico. Always astonishes me to see them in the desert 😊

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    1. Thanks, Kelly! 🙂 I had a great time looking at your photos of brown and white pelicans. I was surprised to hear that there are white pelicans in New Mexico. Very cool to see your photo.

      Sorry for my late reply. I went to Vancouver the day after posting this and when I returned, the nice weather kept me out of the blogosphere.

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  2. How neat!! Nothing beats seeing interesting birds from your very own house. 🙂 Still waiting to see my first pelican myself.

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    1. There is something extra special about seeing a new bird species at home! 😊Hope you get to see a pelican. I wonder if they hang out anywhere on Vancouver Island…

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      1. funnily, there have been some spotted recently, though they are rare here, but I have not had luck seeing them yet!

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        1. Oh, so there is a small chance that you’ll spot one in your area. Cool! Maybe some day… Sending pelican-sighting vibes your way. 🙂

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  3. How cool to see pelicans! Something we don’t have in Fresno, California! 😊

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    1. Hi, Debra. I looked on ebird and it looks like some American white pelicans were spotted in and near Fresno last winter and in the early spring. Among other places, they were spotted at the Fresno Slough and Fresno Water Treatment Plant. I don’t know if they are there most days in the winter or if it is only occasionally. 🙂

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      1. Oh wow, that’s interesting! I would never have thought!

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  4. Que j’aime les pélicans ! Parmi mes oiseaux préférés ! Super photos ! 🙂

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    1. Merci, Jérôme! 🙂 J’aime bien tes pélicans à lunettes. Est-tu toujours à 4 espèces de pélicans ou tu en as vu d’autres depuis 2015?

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      1. Je suis à 5 ! En octobre 2015, j’ai rajouté le Pélican frisé à ma liste, lors d’un séjour en Grèce ! 😉

        https://debecetdeplumes15.wordpress.com/2015/11/22/numero-5/

        Il m’en manque 3 : Le Pélican américain, le Pélican thage (Pérou, Chili) et Pélican à bec tacheté (Asie)… il m’en reste encore un peu ! 😉

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        1. Les trois qui restent sont loin les uns des autres. Beaucoup de voyages! Bravo pour le pélican frisé (le plus grand!!!) et merci pour le lien. 🙂

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  5. How exciting a dinner show! I love the White Pelicans. We get some down here for winter. I’ve only seen them with the mating horn one Spring when I went up to Oregon looking for Dancing Grebes.

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    1. Lol! Yes, a pelican dinner show by a troupe of professional fliers! 😀 That’s neat that you’ve seen pelicans in different environments; I always like hearing about where you’ve seen birds. 🙂

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  6. I just had a similar siting of white pelicans at a Marsh, yesterday. They are so pleasant to observe. I’m glad you had such a wonderful siting, Miriam.

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    1. Happy to hear that you too had a lovely pelican moment recently! 🙂 They seem to me to be the most exotic looking birds in my neck of the woods. I recently got a chance to observe them preening. Those bills are so interesting! Have you seen other pelican species in your travels?

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      1. I love watching pelicans, too, Myriam–preening, flying, hunting. They are fascinating birds. Yes, I have seen other pelican species. We have the white and brown in northern California, but on my travels I have also seen pelicans in Tanzania, Kenya, Australia, and the Galapagos Islands. We are fortunate to have them in many places on earth. 🙂

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        1. I haven’t seen them hunt yet, but maybe some day. Neat to read the different places you have seen them. So cool! 🙂

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  7. I‘m glad you had a chance to see the pelicans, Myriam! 🙂
    I didn‘t know about the breeding ,,horn‘‘. Such an interesting fact!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed that little fact! 🙂 It is fun that some birds change their looks for the breeding season. One of the wonders of spring!

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  8. You were lucky indeed, and to think all it took was spaghetti to bring them in! 😉
    Seriously, I’m glad you raced for the camera. They’re fun pictures, and informative – I noticed the horn, wondered, read your text, and learned! I love pelicans! Wonderful.

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  9. Je trouve ces oiseaux extradordinaires, j’avais eu la chance d’en croiser à yellostone et en Californie et j’en garde un super souvenir. Ce sont des sacré morceaux tout de même, Et ce bec incroyable ! Ravi que tu aies pu les admirer de chez toi, c’est super !!!
    Seb

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    1. Oui, leurs becs sont vraiment spéciaux! Heureuse que tu en as rencontrés; j’ai bien aimé tes photos. J’ai eu la chance plus récemment d’en observer au sol. Ils font des drôles de trucs avec ce grand bec! 🙂

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      1. Oui, effectivement, leur bec est vraiment impressionnant !!! J’avais découvert à cette occasion leur étrange protubérance sur le milieu de la mandibule supérieure. Apparemment, elle tombe après la période des amours, vraiment étrange 🙂 La Nature est tellement étonnante, c’est génial !
        J’espère en tout cas que tu as pu prendre quelques clichés pour les partager avec nous 😉

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        1. Oui, un peu étrange leur petite bosse :-). Et je viens d’apprendre qu’ils ont trois plumage par année au lieu de 2. J’ai pris 400 photos de 4 pélicans sur un petite île! Ca va me prendre un peu de temps éliminer les moches et de choisir les meilleurs entre les presque-pareilles.

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          1. Ah oui, pour le plumage, je ne savais pas non plus, merci pour l’info. 400 pour 4 pélicans, ça nous promet un bien article ça ! Courage, je suis certain que cet écrémage en vaudra la peine… Bien entendu, je dis ça un peu égoïstement, hâte de lire ton prochain article sur le sujet 😉

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            1. Merci pour l’encouragement. 🙂

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  10. What a cool “yard” bird! Congratulations!

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    1. Glad you enjoyed my yard birds, Greg! 🙂 I appreciate your bike-n-bird blog. I did a bit of biking-n-birding in Calgary but haven’t yet in Edmonton.

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