American White Pelican
Pelecanus erythrorhynchos • Birds
This water bird is the heaviest North American bird. Their huge throat pouch is used as a dip net to catch fish and in hot weather pouch fluttering is a cooling mechanism. Standing up to 70 inches tall, they have white feathers with black primaries and outer secondary feathers. Adults have a yellow crest and bright orange bill. All four toes are connected by a web of skin.
The American white pelican eats 3 to 4 pounds of fish every day and an occasional salamander or crayfish. Their bill may collect 3 gallons in volume to which they squeeze the water out from the corners of their mouth before swallowing their food.
Migrating inland, pelicans will nest in colonies from a few to hundreds of pairs. Monogamous, courtship precedes nesting. The nest may be on the ground with no nest material or a slight depression or a mound of dirt and debris. Usually 2 eggs are laid. Hatching in 36 days, both parents feed the chicks that leave the nest in 3 to 4 weeks and fledge at 8 weeks.