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

31 Comments

    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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    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. 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. 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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    1. Lol! The wonders of spaghetti! Thanks for your witty comment, Lynn. Sorry it took me so long to respond. I remember trying to come up with a clever response, but I never did. And then I forgot to respond.

      I’m glad you enjoyed learning about the horn. I did too! 🙂

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  2. 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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