American White Pelican
|Conservation status||Colonies are vulnerable to disturbance and habitat loss. Total population probably declined through first half of 20th century, substantial increase since 1970s.|
|Habitat||Lakes, marshes, salt bays. In breeding season mostly inland, nesting on isolated islands in lakes and feeding on shallow lakes, rivers, marshes. Feeding areas may be miles from nesting sites. Also breeds locally on coastal islands. Flocks in migration stop on lakes, rivers. Winters mainly along coast, on shallow, protected bays and estuaries, also on large lakes in warm climates.|
Forages by swimming on surface, dipping bill into water and scooping up fish in pouch. During breeding season does much foraging at night, locating fish by touch during frequent dipping of bill; by day, probably locates prey visually. May forage cooperatively, lining up and driving fish toward shallower water.
mostly fish. Primarily eats "rough" fish of little value to humans; also crayfish, salamanders.
Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Most populations are migratory; some populations on Texas coast and in Mexico are permanent residents. Migrates by day, in flocks. Breeders from northern plains migrate southeast and southwest to coastal lowlands. Some nonbreeding birds remain through summer on winter range, especially in Florida. Strays wander widely, including to northeast.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsUsually silent; grunts or croaks on nesting grounds.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the American White Pelican
Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.
Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.
Climate threats facing the American White Pelican
Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.