By Douglas “Birdman” Gray, Outdoor Afro Contributor
As I reflect on my birding experiences over the last month, I’m greatly challenged once again to select a “Bird of the Month”. I’ve had some wonderful experiences while birding over the last month. Not only have I bird-watched with some great friends, but I’ve also seen some birds that have a certain…“WOW!”…factor about them.
This month’s bird? I have to go with the American White Pelican. This is a compelling choice because, and I could be wrong, but I don’t think there have ever been so many American White Pelicans reported in Indiana in a single month. Indiana’s renowned birding expert, Dr. Lee Sterrenberg even said, “Indiana is currently awash with American White Pelicans.”
These pelicans were indeed reported in many locations, and in good numbers. There were at least 12 individual birds that showed up at Eagle Creek Park. There were also places like Goose Pond Fish and Wildlife Area in Linton, Indiana and other locales that had counts in the “hundreds”.
From a habitat perspective, pelicans are usually associated with seashores and coastal regions, so some may find it strange to have a “pelican” here in the Midwest. However, the American White Pelican will indeed hang out around large inland lakes and rivers, even here in the Midwest.
And what a great bird this truly is. The American White Pelican is indeed one of the largest birds in all of North America. It can weigh up to almost 30 pounds and has a wingspan that can exceed 9 feet (that’s actually a foot more than that of the great Bald Eagle).
American White Pelicans are very distinctive in their appearance. Even non-birders can easily recognize them because of their massive size, extremely large beaks, and bright white plumage (except for black on its wings that is usually only seen during flight, or whenever the bird spreads its wings).
I believe there are still some American White Pelicans hanging around. If you get the opportunity, head out and try to catch sight of this magnificent creature. I still haven’t met the person who after seeing one doesn’t say…“WOW!”
And thanks to Marty Jones for the great photographs!
Douglas “Birdman” Gray has been birding almost all of his life. He grew up on a family farm near Clarksville, Tennessee, where they grew crops ranging from apricots to wheat, and most things in between. They also raised chickens, guineas, pigs, horses, and a cow named…….Apples. Doug’s grandfather identified the birds they would see daily on the farm.
Doug now resides in Indianapolis and works in Parenteral Engineering with Eli Lilly and Company. Most of his current birding takes place in Indiana, with a concentration on Central Indiana, where he leads bird walks for “Backyard Birds”. Doug can be reached at 317-255-7333.