Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Pelicans are very cool birds.  They are big, obvious, ungainly, and they’ve got those enormous beaks!! 
Scoop showing off his "Models of the Runway" walk
But what do you really know about pelicans?  Well, how about the fact that there are only 8 different species of pelicans in the world?  Scientists have broken them up into two different groups.  Four of them (Brown, Pink-backed, Spot-billed and Peruvian) are mostly brown birds and they nest in the trees. 
Brown Pelicans sunning themselves on an Appalachicola dock
The other four (American White, Great White, Australian and Dalmatian) are mostly white birds and they nest on the ground.  Also, the Australian Pelican has the largest bill of any bird!

But what about the guys around here, in the St. Louis area?  Yes!  We do have pelicans in St. Louis - they are not just coastal seabirds.  St. Louis is the northern tip of the American White Pelican (aka Rough-billed Pelican) winter range.  This species spends its summers paddling around on inland lakes in north central US and Canada.  They do not dive for fish like the Brown Pelican.  Instead, they swim on the surface of the lake and dip their large bills into the water, scooping up fish.  Their bills can hold an impressive 3 gallons of water!  When fall arrives, the American White Pelicans migrate south.  Many of them head to the Gulf of Mexico to spend their winters like so many humans do - basking in the mild winters of the south.  But some of the pelicans winter on the Mississippi River, as well.  In the St. Louis area, the many locks and dams on the river keep the water open.  This allows the pelicans to have easy access to fish all winter long.

American White Pelicans are impressive birds to see up close.  They weigh 11-20 pounds (the female is smaller than the male) and their wingspan is 8-10 feet.  In the wild, they live an average of 16 years, but in the care of humans they can live much longer - the record is 34 years!
 Scoop entertaining the crowds at Birds In Concert
If you would like to see an American White Pelican up close and personal, come out to the Great Rivers Museum in Alton, IL on Sat. May 8th.  Our pelican, Scoop, will be visiting the museum and will be the star of the “Get the Scoop” pelican programs that are being presented at 11:00, 12:00 and 2:00.  Hope to see you there!

Submitted by Laura MacLeod, World Bird Sanctuary, Education Coordinator


Murr Brewster said...

Love that first photo. She's totally strutting the runway.

Photog said...

Scoop definitely has "attitude". He's quickly becoming one of our most popular "stars". If you have the opportunity, try to catch one of his appearances this spring while he's sporting his distinct breeding colors and "horn".

Photog said...

Ooops! For those of you sharp-eyed enough to notice, this publisher went slightly dyslexic and reversed the nesting habits facts about these two species. The white pelicans nest on the ground and the brown pelicans nest in the trees!

Anonymous said...

Is this the same bird that grabbed the older gentleman in his 'unmentionables'? I loved that clip!!!

Photog said...

That gentleman was our Director, and it just goes to show that animals have no respect for titles or corporate heirarchy.