American White Pelicans Are Back

(I meant to publish this post two days ago.  A little late on the news for my local friends, sorry!  Here’s good news:  Tomorrow, November 11, Blackwater NWR has free admission to the wildlife drive in honor of Veteran’s Day.)


I’ve been processing and whittling down the bigger birds I captured during my last two visits to Blackwater NWR.  That post is almost complete and may have to split into two posts.

In this post, I wanted to share the surprise I sighted/captured on November 4th visit, the flying in of four American White Pelicans.

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American White Pelicans


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American White Pelicans


Not a new bird for me but exciting just the same!

You see, although considered unusual for the mid-Atlantic region as a resident bird, even more so for wintering grounds, Blackwater NWR has been fortunate to host a squadron of around 100 +/- American White Pelicans that first started coming in smaller quantities in 2007.

I re-looped the wildlife drive about an hour or so later and saw a small squadron of about 15-20 of them out on the water in the distance.  Probably where the four I first saw were now.

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American White Pelicans


On October 31st, the refuge did a waterfowl count and reported zero American White Pelicans.

The local birding forums and Blackwater NWR media are abuzz with the sightings.  Some have shown photos (91 in flight, sighted Nov. 2nd) and others are boasting counts (as high as 88 in the water) of the arrivals.

Hopefully, the American White Pelicans will stay the winter again and come in closer to the wildlife drive once in a while for visitors to marvel and photograph up close.



32 thoughts on “American White Pelicans Are Back

  1. We also welcome the newly large squadrons of white pelicans to the island Deer Lagoon.. For the last few years they have been flying the distance from California along the Pacific coast heading north in search for fish. I’m haven’t done any research for their reason to fly the long distance for a change in their diet; but, their presence on the our island is so welcome; hopefully, they will find enough food to be satiated.

    • Great news for your area as well! Yes, it makes you wonder why they make a switch to the norm and continue it. We all welcome their returns in choosing our areas for their winter. 🙂

    • If I had not seen them out of the corner of my left eye, I’d have surely missed them. They landed behind me, meaning I could not turn my car around and go to them, it is a one-way drive with no where to park and leave your car to walk back along that area. (Couple turn-outs but wouldn’t be polite.) It was a sad moment, lol. And when I looked back, not a car in sight. Would anyone have seen me back all the way back??? Thought crossed my mind…. hee hee

  2. Nice that you were able to see and capture these large, beautiful birds Donna… especially in flight! I’ve occasionally seen a few White Pelicans at Blackwater in years past, but they were typically so far out into the marsh from my vantage point on Wildlife Drive that even with a tripod-mounted 400mm and a 1.4x they were still rather small subjects when trying to precisely focus & compose my shots using live-view on the rear LCD. Please keep me in mind should you see their numbers increase and, hopefully, hang out a bit closer to the drive. Would look forward to making a trip across the Bay Bridge and spending the day at the refuge!

    • I didn’t know until I got home that someone had reported seeing them Nov 2, so I was so surprised to see them out of the corner of my eye. If I could have only turned the car around and go back, they were closer to the drive than I’ve ever seen before. Maybe they were confused on where to land, or a breeze caught them. Yes, I’ll let you know on number increases, we’ll have to meet up for some birding! 🙂

    • Are yours year-round residents, staying through winter too? I don’t know much about their migration patterns, but know they are more mid-West and West residents. I saw many throughout the mid-West summer of 2016, but not sure where they go in the winter.

  3. No they are not year-round. They pass through for a few months in late Spring and again in early Fall. Their winter territory is a bit south of Missouri. I noticed I put Lake of the Ozarks in the wrong spot. It’s in southwest Missouri and these pelicans are only seen in the western part of Missouri. The only one I’ve seen in my area is at the World Bird Sanctuary. She’s a female named Mudflap who is a permanent resident because of an injury.

  4. The avian air traffic is increasing being so close to winter. Many groups of birds are in process of migration like every year. I still think that this year’s winter will be harsh in every aspect.
    Nice post Donna, good info for stats. 🙂

  5. How cool! I haven’t seen white pelicans since a birding trip to Florida last winter. I got several photos of a flock of white pelicans flying over Flamingo, in the Everglades, against a clear blue sky — it made my day, and I am sure spotting this group of four made your day! Thanks for sharing.

  6. Wonderful find Donna, many birds are changing their geographics due to climate change and unusual temperature prevalence. We have similar occurrences with some of our birds due to extreme heat and drought.

    • Thank you Ashley, I’m guessing these changes are good for the birds to be able to survive, and for sure benefit us on new and continued sightings that were not the usual in times past. 🙂

  7. Great pictures Donna! We have only seen them in the distance at Blackwater, but are going to visit shortly to have a look. Two white pelicans have been hanging around Gordon’s Pond near Rehoboth Beach. They flew right over us and we were able to get a pretty decent photo, but like at Blackwater they then settled on the water quite a ways out and it was hard to take any more photos.

    • Thank you! Fingers crossed you see them at your next visit. I hope they stay around for the winter as previous years. I did learn through the refuge that there was an injured AHPelican from last winter, and it stayed over this past summer. But they did not see it during the Oct. 31st waterfowl count. 😦

  8. How exciting to see your gorgeous visitors again, Donna. I’m eagerly awaiting the arrival of our winter pelicans. I’m hoping that they will fly in before my daughter does in just under two weeks’ time. 🙂

  9. On Abaco they are coded V4, which is to say very uncommon vagrants – with one or two occasional sightings and not even every year. I’ve only ever seen 1, flying high over the bay. It must be wonderful to see them returning in numbers…

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