RARELY SEEN WHITE PELICAN IN MASSACHUSETTS, IN GLOUCESTER, ON NILES POND!

Imagine the excitement when after filming Mr. Swan this morning, I spotted across the pond a very swan-like large white bird. The first thought that came to mind was a new Mrs. Swan had magically appeared on the scene. But no–not as wonderful–but equally as exciting, with its large orange pouched bill, the bird was unmistakably a pelican!

It was swimming toward the berm so I raced back to the other side of the pond and was able to get somewhat nearer, close enough so that the footage is passable. Without warning, the pelican suddenly took to the air with elegant, graceful wingbeats and I was lucky to have movie camera in hand. The light was murky this morning and all would have been more beautiful if the sun were out a bit more. Nonetheless, it’s great to have a record of this very unusual occurrence.

The American White Pelican is a rare sight in Massachusetts and I wonder if any of our readers have ever seen one on our shores. Please write if you have. 

With wings spanning nine feet, the American White Pelican is one of our largest native birds, only the Trumpeter Swan and California Condor are larger, reportedly having up to ten-foot wingspans. Comparatively, the wings of a Mute Swan span approximately seven to eight feet. Please note that Mr. Swan is a Mute Swan, not a Trumpeter Swan, and is not indigenous.

The Niles Pond pelican was far off course. Pelicans east of the Rocky Mountains typically migrate through the Mississippi Valley, from breeding grounds in northernmost North America to the Gulf of Mexico Texas and Florida coasts. Unlike Brown Pelicans, which dive and plunge for food, white pelicans catch prey while swimming.

As with the Brown Pelican, during the mid-twentieth century, the American White Pelican was severely adversely affected by spraying DDT in fields and wetlands. Habitat destruction, shoreline erosion, and mass poisonings when pesticides are used near breeding grounds continue to threaten the American White Pelican.

White pelican Massachusetts gloucester ©Kim Smith 11-16-15Far off course, a white pelican migrates through Gloucester

american_white_pelican_map_bigMap provided by South Dakota Birds, via Peter Houlihan, who is Anna from Cape Ann Giclee’s brother. Peter teaches biology at UMass Amherst, has a PhD in biology/animal behavior, and is an ornithologist. Thank you Peter!

16 thoughts on “RARELY SEEN WHITE PELICAN IN MASSACHUSETTS, IN GLOUCESTER, ON NILES POND!

    1. Hi Sybil, The time clock in my camera is not accurate. When I get a minute I’ll figure out how many hours it is off and will let you know precisely what time i was filming the pelican. I think it was about 8:30- 9am. The pelican flew north, towards Rockport, after leaving Niles so I imagine it would be a short distance for such a powerful flyer to next be seen at Plum Island.

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      1. Hi Kim,

        Yes, it is QUITE a bit shorter on the Wing…. a direct flight from Halibut Point. I am soooo concerned that the Pelican is WAY out of his/her territory! HOWEVRm they do migrate, so perhaps s/he will make it bak South!

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    1. Thanks so much Joanne, truly a case of being in the right p[lace at the right time, and with camera in hand. It all happened so suddenly and without the movie camera, we would never have captured its elegant flight.

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