Yesterday I spotted a group of these birds circling on the wind currents. I counted 16 birds in the group and watched them float and drift about for about 10 minutes until they floated over the hilltop out of sight. They never flapped their wings once, just floated gently in circles. So peaceful to watch. I ran to my bird book and found these birds to be the American White Pelican. I thought pelicans lived by the ocean but found that this species of pelican perfers large fresh water lakes, especially during the spring breeding season. I suspect they live at nearby Lake Mathews.
Here are some interesting facts that I learned:
- This large, plump bird has a wing span of up to 67 inches!
- The beak reach up to 14 inches.
- Females are smaller than the males.
- Weight can reach up to 20 lbs.
- Regularly lives up to 16 years, and one lived a record 34 yrs.
- They eat 4 lbs of food every day!
- They don't dive for fish like other pelicans or birds, they group together while swimming and herd the fish together and then skim the fish up with their beaks.
- They have a clutch of eggs in March/April of 1 to 6 eggs. The usual number is just 2 or 3. The clutch is in a nest found in grass near a water source.
- Natural predators are coyotes, ravens, and gulls.
- Use of DDT and the draining of wetlands decreased numbers significantly in the 20th century causing the birds numbers to be in a "special concern" status in the State of California.