American White Pelicans

No, we aren’t on vacation at some exotic ocean spot. We’re still in Kansas.

The very last birds you would expect to see smack in the middle of the country nowhere near an ocean would be pelicans, but here they are.

Having wintered in the Gulf of Mexico and now heading north to Canada for the breeding season, some of them make a pit stop on a neighbor’s pond up the road from us for a few days.

Here, they’ll rest and feed before continuing their journey.

It’s hard to tell from these pictures, but they are big birds weighing between 10 and 30 pounds with a wingspan of 6 to 10 feet.

They each eat about 4 pounds of fish per day.  Catching their meals is easy on this pond because it is very shallow. The flock swims across the pond “herding” the fish in front of them. Then they circle around and begin to feast. Other pelicans fly in to take their share.

After they’ve had their fill, they rest and preen.  Here’s a short video:


They only stayed about a week and we miss them.

They brought a little “ocean” to us here in Kansas.

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Cattle, corn, wheat, beans, mud, snow, ice, and drought. Plenty of fresh air and quiet. Our life is sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes joyous, but never boring.

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29 Responses

  1. Jay Simons says:

    I hope that wasn’t someone’s favorite fishing hole. Are you shooting with DSLR or your G9?

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Jay,
      I used a Canon 5d with a 400 zoom lens and I wish I’d had a bigger lens. They ate like crazy while they were there, and after a week, I’d be very surprised if there are any fish left in that pond. I don’t think very many people fish there. It’s just grass carp.

  2. Amazing! We live only an hour from the ocean and I have yet to see these awesome birds. I guess one never knows what you’ll find on the prairie. Love the video and the tune. Very fun. Thanks.

  3. Jen says:

    The first time I saw American White Pelicans in Kansas I thought they were swans…I saw them from the back, it was kind of far away and what else could a big, white swimming bird be?? I was blown away to find out they were pelicans! My husband and I saw a big flock on Milford Lake on Tuesday afternoon.

    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Jen,
      Me too! I’ve seen pelicans from a distance and thought thy were pelicans. About the same size I think.

  4. Alica says:

    Love the pics of these beautiful birds! The whole migration process is fascinating to me.

  5. Sally Bishop says:

    What an interesting and unexpected sight.

  6. Monica says:

    Thanks so much for sharing the video. And for the fun facts about the pelicans. Like the other comments, I also wondered if your neighbor has to restock his pond after the pelicans left. He might not be so happy about that, but if no one fishes there it’s OK.

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Monica,
      I’m not sure he’s going to restock that pond as he will be using it as an irrigation source this summer and likely empty it out. It will refill as it is supplied by a small stream though. So I’m not sure what they are planning with regard to the fish.

  7. Tina says:

    I really cannot believe you have pelican in Kansas! Neat. I have never noticed the bumps on their bills before. Nice filming as usual. Thanks again.

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Tina,
      The bumps on their bills only show up during the breeding season. The rest of the year – no bumps. Odd huh?

  8. Pam K. says:

    I saw pelicans a couple of weeks ago at Johnson Lake in Nebraska as they were flying through, too! Beautiful birds!

  9. Dianna says:

    Beautiful! We only have brown pelicans in our area. Thanks for sharing your photos!

  10. CreationsbyDina says:

    These pictures are awesome. I will have to show them to my son in the morning. He loves birds and studies Ohio birds for a 4-H project!!!

  11. Nance says:

    I saw these great whites on a little lake in northern Missouri one year. I thought they were swans too . . . until I got my Audubon Society bird book out and started reading. Okay, that’s a FIB. I looked at the pictures.

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Nance,
      The first pelicans I ever saw were on Thomas Hill lake in northern Missouri. Was that where you were?

  12. How cool! My first thought was that you were in Florida… 😀

  13. Teresa says:

    We have a marsh nearby that pelicans stay at for a while. It is amazing to see. You do a great job capturing them.

  14. Wow, that’s so cool. I never would have thought you would see pelicans in Kansas. I love the close ups of them sitting on the bank. For some reason the video is not showing up…wonder if it is my computer..things have been a little strange on my computer today.

    • Suzanne says:

      Hi Bonnie,
      Sorry about the video not showing up. I had trouble with that one, but I fixed it this morning and it should be working fine now.

  15. I have a very special friend in Atichison Kansas who cherishes the sight of these wonderful birds. Can you let me know the window of time to see them there?

    • Suzanne says:

      boy, that’s a hard one. They migrate through here in the spring headed north and we see them usually in late April. But they aren’t necessarily reliable. This year we didn’t see them at all. I would advise your friend to look for them on large lakes in her area in late April. They flock in a tight bunch and since they are so large and white you can see them from a long ways off when they are around. They stay in one spot for several days and then move on.

  16. We just got back from camping at Lake Perry and we saw these birds and were wondering what they were. We didn’t think there would be anyway that they could be Seagull or Pelican but we couldn’t think what they else they could be. I’m assuming since it is late in the season they are migrating back south again.

  17. Lora says:

    There are about a dozen of them at Lake Shawnee ( Topeka, KS). They’ve been there for about 10 days or so and were still there this afternoon.

  18. Mary says:

    They ate the fish in my backyard pond. I counted 40 fish in the pond yesterday afternoon.

  19. Mary says:

    I only saw one bird, then tapped on the backdoor window and he immediately flew away with a fish in his bill.

  20. Mary says:

    Correction made on email address.

  21. Mary says:

    I’ve been up since daylight watching for the bird. It was around 8am when I saw him yesterday. I did see 2 ducks land on the pond, but they flew away when I opened the door. This is the first time that I’ve seen any ducks here. By 4:00 yesterday afternoon, I counted 22 fish in the pond. More survived then initially realized. Most of them were babies.

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