Oct 23 2011

Unusual … For Here

Published by at 7:20 am under Beyond Bounds,Water and Shore

After Scott Kinsey reported an American white pelican at Pymatuning last Monday, curious birders have made the trip to see it.

If you who live in Florida or west of the Mississippi this may seem strange.  What's the big deal about a pelican?  To Pittsburghers, pelicans are rare.

American white pelicans are inland birds who breed at brackish or freshwater lakes in western North America and winter on the Gulf and Pacific coasts.  Even in winter they avoid the open ocean.  Their migration route takes them through the Great Plains and intermountain West but their range map indicates no overland path to Florida.

How do they get there?

On very rare occasions they fly over southwestern Pennsylvania.

My only sighting in Pittsburgh occurred in June 2003.  While looking for the Pitt peregrines I saw a dot in the sky heading south.  It was a very large white bird with black primaries and a pale point where its head should be.  PABIRDS helped me with the identification:  American white pelican.

What was that pale point where its head should have been?  Pelicans fly with their heads tucked in (shown above).  All I could see from the ground was its beak!

Moral of the story:  Keep looking up.

(photo by Chuck Tague)

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Unusual … For Here”

  1. Harrietton 23 Oct 2011 at 7:27 pm

    We were at Pymatuning this afternoon observing the Pelican (and other birds) and saw you pulling out of the Spillway parking lot heading toward the Museum area but alas too late to catch you. Would have loved to have met you. Hope you enjoyed your day as much as we did.

  2. Kate St. Johnon 23 Oct 2011 at 9:09 pm

    How about that! Small world.
    By the time you saw me I had been at Pymantuning for almost 5 hours and had only just seen the pelican across the water. I was going to go home but decided to go up to the PGC Visitor Center to see if I could get a closer look at the bird. The pelican swam toward shore with a flock of cormorants who were herding a school of fish so I got a nice look at him. Cool!

  3. Joshon 24 Oct 2011 at 8:12 am

    You know what they say. . . Birds of a feather flock together! 😉

  4. Gintarason 24 Oct 2011 at 7:43 pm

    I’ve never seen yet pelicans, but great egrets look similar in flight…

    And Kate, talking about peregrines, this morning I saw peregrine falcon eating what it doesn’t look like a pidgeon – too white , maybe he/she caught a seagull?

    Pictures from far away – on top of high voltage tower…I guess, peregrine is the one from Nassau Medical Center nest , East Meadow, NY



  5. Kate St. Johnon 24 Oct 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Cool pictures, Gintaras!

  6. Andrewon 07 Jul 2017 at 8:25 am

    2017 July 6th saw a American white pelican flying over my head in the Pittsburgh area, very cool!

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