Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
(American White Pelican)

Order: Pelecaniformes
Order Description: Pelicans, Cormorants
Family: Pelecanidae
Family Description: Pelecans

Physical Description:
Size: 54-74" (137-138 cm). This is a large white bird with black primary and secondary flight feathers. Note the large, yellow, pouched bill. It has a wingspan of 8 to 9.5 feet. In flight, it alternately soars and flaps. Flies with neck bent and head close to body.

Similar Species- The Trumpeter Swan has no black on its wings. The Whooping Crane flies with its neck straight.

Generally silent.

Breeds in Canadian Prairie Provinces and parts of northwestern and midwestern U.S., south to coastal Texas. Winters along Gulf and Pacific coasts south to Guatemala. In Idaho, breeds at Minidoka National Wildlife Refuge, Blackfoot Reservoir, and on Snake River near Glenn's Ferry.

Found on rivers, lakes, estuaries, and bays. In Idaho, found on large inland reservoirs and island nests.

Feeds mainly on fishes of little commercial value (e.g., carp, perch, catfish, suckers, stickleback). Eats some salamanders and crayfishes.


GregariousClick word for definition. Nests on ground, in rimmed scrape. In Idaho, several nesting colonies have been abandoned due to human distrubance. Foxes and coyotes are nest predators. Estimates from 1993 survey indicate 150-175 nexts are located at Minidoka NWR and 80-100 nests are located at Blackfoot Reservoir.

Both adults incubateClick word for definition 2 eggs (usually); rarely does more than 1 young fledgeClick word for definition (in an Idaho study, 5 nests yielded an average of 1.8 young/nest). Young are tended by both adults, leave nest in about 21-28 days, and first fly at 7-10 wk. In Manitoba study, 34-38 days elapsed between time flocksClick word for definition first flew over colony sites and time eggs hatched.

Element Code: ABNFC01010
Status: Protected nongame species
Global Rank: G3
State Rank: S1
National Rank: N3B,N3N

Important State References:
Trost, C.H. and A. Gerstell. 1994. Status and distribution of colonial nesting waterbirds in southern Idaho, 1993. Dept. Biol. Sciences, Idaho St. Univ., Pocatello. 101pp.

Photo by Marcus Martin, ©1999.
Design by Ean Harker©1999, 2000.
Written by Jason Karl, 2000.