During a DOS Local Patch field trip led by Tim Schreckengost on October 18th, local birder Julie McCall alerted our attention to an American White Pelican that she found foraging and resting among Laughing Gulls in the marsh near the Prime Hook NWR headquarters. The pelican has since been seen almost daily, mostly from Fowler Beach Rd and typically resting or foraging among gulls and geese. This is an excellent opportunity for East Coast birders to get great views of a beautiful, uncommon species. Hopefully it sticks around for awhile! The American White Pelican’s breeding population is increasing by about 5% per year since 1966 throughout central Canada and at scattered locations throughout the western US. More and more pelicans are found each fall and winter in eastern states – and these massive, white-and-black-and-orange birds are pretty hard to miss! Most often single birds are found, but Blackwater NWR in Maryland has had a wintering group of 50 to 60 individuals for the past two years! This has been a good fall for pelicans in the mid-Atlantic with one at Brigantine in New Jersey, probably the same bird seen again in Cape May; the Prime Hook NWR bird; another seen on October 25th from Magotha Rd near Cape Charles, Virginia; and a high count of 10 currently at Blackwater NWR in Maryland.
On October 21st Josh Lefever and I went kayaking around Prime Hook NWR, and were shocked to look up at one point and realize that the pelican was soaring directly over our heads! I thought that perhaps our large white kayak, with black paddles may have actually looked like foraging pelicans, and may have lured the pelican over to investigate! It certainly seemed interested in us, and circled very low overhead. Eventually the pelican glided away and landed among some Canada Geese, and foraged actively – scooping up fish with it’s huge, orange bill.