American White Pelican highlights Birding and Wildlife Festival


Black wingtips are a unique feature of the American White Pelican.

SENIOR LIFE Courtesy of Jim Eager


Nearly 30 American White Pelicans lined up on a small pier at Sebastian Inlet just off the Indian River Lagoon.

Even a non-birder who is not from where these birds are common and who is driving by might be inclined to pull over to take a closer look.

Unlike other birds, the White Pelican is distinguished by its beak or bill. Its bill is large with a slight pouch of skin below its beak for catching fish.

They winter along coasts in Florida and as far south as South America. They prefer estuaries and lakes to the open seashore.

The American White Pelican is one of the hundreds of species of birds that birders participating in the 21st Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, scheduled from Jan. 24 to 29 in part at Eastern Florida State College in Titusville, might see.

Hundreds of fans from around the globe are expected for the festival held each year in Brevard County.

Jim Eager of Obsessive Compulsive Birding in Titusville said that one of the most noteworthy characteristics and traits of American White Pelicans is their wingspan, which can reach 9 feet.

“They have the largest wingspan of any bird in North America, tied with the California Condor — twice the size of a Brown Pelican. As a group, they herd fish into shallow water to feed rather than dive into the water like the Brown Pelican.”

Eager takes birders who want to see the American White Pelican to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Eager said the American White Pelican is “a very elegant bird and quite impressive and beautiful when you observe a large flock take to wing. They are all white with black wingtips.”

Short of throwing a rock to startle them into flight to see their dramatic wingspan, it is enough to see them in a group on the pier.