The American White Pelican is a great bird to ponder during the holiday season, and at a time when our country seems at such an impasse on so many issues.
With a nine-foot wing span, the white pelican is one of the largest of American birds. It weighs about 16 pounds, and is roughly 4-5 feet in length. These birds are social in nature, breeding in colonies. They are most noted for their habit of “cooperative foraging.” Rather than diving for their food as their brown pelican cousins do, these birds float on top of the water, dip their heads beneath the surface and scoop up their prey. Its cooperative foraging refers to the practice of swimming in a flock and working together to capture fish. As a group they will encircle fish or drive them into shallow water where they can more easily be caught. Some flocks have even been observed driving fish toward another nearby flock.
The pelican’s spirit of cooperation and selflessness is both inspiring, and a reminder to all of us that when we come together and work together, then everyone wins. Such a simple lesson.
We are fortunate to have these big, beautiful creatures grace our waters for the winter months. Most white pelicans are migratory birds, breeding in areas of Canada, Minnesota and northern California, then wintering south in places like California, Florida, Mexico, and Central America. Our Gulf Coast area is one of the few locations to have them year round. Whether the flocks that visit our waters on Clear Lake are from the immediate coast seeking temporary shelter from harsh winter winds, or if they are visitors from northern regions, they are a welcomed.