Bird Species of the World's Boreal Forests


Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
American White Pelican


Distinguishing Features - These are the only white pelicans in North America. Pelicans have a vertebra in their neck, which prohibits them from ever raising their face.

American White Pelican Length: 150 cm; wingspan: up to 2.9 m. It is one of the largest of the 8 true species of pelicans. They have a yellowish pouch connected to the lower mandible of the beak that stretches up to 15 cm. Overall colouration: bodies are mostly white, with black primaries and outer secondaries, which are hidden until the bird outstretches it's wings.

During mating season the male develops a fibrous plate on the upper part of the beak, which is a unique characteristic of the white pelican. Also the bill is bright orange during the mating season. Their feet are orange, and are webbed not only between the four front toes but also between the second toe and the inwardly directed back toe.


North America, as far north as the Canadian prairie provinces; in freshwater locations, estuaries, and bays.


The American White Pelican is different from other pelicans, in that it does not dive from great heights to catch its prey, it simply floats along the water and scoops up fish with it's enormous bill. After the fish have been caught the bill is pointed downward to drain the water; the bill is then raised to swallow the fish.


These pelicans are very fond of company, and usually stay together in large colonies to rear their young. Most of the time they can be seen together in groups on feeding trips. Both parents help in feeding the young, they do this by regurgitating food and the young stick their heads into the parents beak to feed. Adults rarely make any noise, but when they do it is usually a low grunt. However, the young feel the need to squeal, and are very noisy.

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