The American White Pelican
is one of the largest birds
found in South Dakota. They are migrants through most of the state, but do nest
in some of the northeastern counties. Unlike their cousins, the
Brown Pelican, American White Pelicans do not
plunge dive, but feed by dipping their large pouched bill into the water and
scooping up fish. Note the raised bump on the top of the beak (shown in
bird to the right) is only present during the breeding season.
Habitat: Lakes, marshes,
rivers. Nests on isolated islands and sandbars, may feed many miles from
Diet: Mostly fish, also
salamanders and crustaceans.
Behavior: Feeds by dipping bill into the water and
scooping up prey. They will often forage together in groups, lining up
and driving prey fish to shallower waters for easier capture.
Nesting: May through August. The nest of an American
White Pelican is a depression on the ground, with a built-up rim of mud, rocks,
and plants. The female lays 2 eggs, and both parents help to incubate
them. When the eggs hatch, both parents help to feed the young. The
young fledge at about 10 weeks.
Song: Mostly silent.
Migration: Winters along Gulf Coast,
California, and Mexico.
Status: Due to habitat loss and
disturbance at nesting colonies, populations declined substantially up through
the middle part of the 20th century. Numbers have increased in the past
few decades. The
IUCN lists the American White Pelican as a species of "Least Concern".
American White Pelican
Whatbird.com: American White Pelican
Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or
text links below for additional, higher-resolution American White Pelican photos.