Do pelicans migrate to the Midwest?

Answered by Cody Janus

Pelicans are fascinating creatures, known for their impressive wingspans and unique feeding behaviors. When it comes to migration, the American white pelican is the only species of pelican that makes its way through the Midwest. This is in contrast to the brown pelicans, which primarily reside along the Atlantic Coast.

The migration patterns of pelicans are truly remarkable. Each year, American white pelicans undertake a long journey, traveling from their breeding grounds in the northern United States and Canada to their wintering grounds in the southern United States and Mexico. As they make their way south, they often pass through the Midwest region.

I vividly remember the first time I witnessed a flock of American white pelicans during their migration. It was a crisp autumn morning, and I was standing on the shores of a small lake in the Midwest. Suddenly, a group of these majestic birds appeared on the horizon, soaring gracefully through the sky. Their large, white wings contrasted beautifully against the blue sky, and their synchronized flight patterns were truly awe-inspiring.

The American white pelican’s migration through the Midwest is driven by the changing seasons and the availability of food. During the summer breeding season, these pelicans gather in large colonies near freshwater lakes and marshes. They nest in colonies, laying their eggs on the ground or in shallow nests built in trees or shrubs. Once the breeding season comes to an end, they begin their journey south.

One of the main reasons why American white pelicans migrate through the Midwest is the abundance of food sources along their route. These pelicans are primarily piscivorous, meaning they feed on fish. As they migrate, they rely on the numerous inland lakes and rivers in the Midwest to find ample food supplies. The fertile waters of these bodies of water support a rich variety of fish, providing an ideal feeding ground for the pelicans.

I recall a particular instance when I observed a group of American white pelicans feeding in a shallow lake in the Midwest. They worked together in a cooperative feeding technique known as “group fishing.” Forming a semi-circle, they moved towards the shore, herding fish into a tight cluster. Then, with their bills open wide, they scooped up the fish and swallowed them whole. It was a fascinating sight to behold, and it highlighted the pelicans’ remarkable adaptability and intelligence.

The migration of American white pelicans through the Midwest is a spectacle that not only captivates bird enthusiasts but also serves as a reminder of the interconnectedness of ecosystems. As these pelicans make their way through the region, they contribute to the ecological balance by regulating fish populations and dispersing nutrients through their droppings.

While brown pelicans are commonly associated with the Atlantic Coast, the American white pelican is the species that migrates through the Midwest. Their annual journey is driven by the changing seasons and the search for food. The Midwest’s abundant freshwater lakes and rivers provide the pelicans with the necessary resources to fuel their migration. Witnessing these magnificent birds in flight and observing their feeding behaviors is a truly remarkable experience that showcases the beauty and diversity of the natural world.