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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

World Bird Wednesday XXXVI

Breaking News: Pelicans Invade Michigan

   Pelicans in Michigan? Preposterous.
  A pelican sighting is a strange occurrence around here and worthy of a write up in the local papers when one does fall out of the sky and onto a Michigan lake. It's the kind of thing Grandpa would have reminisced about as he cleaned his dentures before bed, so rare and remarkable was the experience. Such sights are lately becoming more common here in the Lower Peninsula.
  I postulate now that American White Pelicans are on the move from the high plains of North Dakota and Manitoba pushing their migratory boundary eastward to include the Great Lakes. Be warned Michigan, it's probably only a matter of time before they start breeding here too. This is my own and highly undocumented sense of the coming storm. 
 Huge flocks of pelicans congregate for the spring breeding ritual just east of the Canadian Rockies on islands situated inside inland lakes where the rookeries are better protected from predators with a natural mote. Their wintering grounds run along the California/Mexican Pacific rim and the Gulf coast. From my readings I gather that where you find these pelican rookeries you will also see cormorants and gulls as part of the fish loving entourage. On their own, white pelicans can put a beating on a fishery. A single bird, weighing in at thirty pounds, will eat more that half it's body weight in fish daily. Consider also that the birds have mastered the art of hunting in floating packs. When surrounding a school of fish pelicans beat their wings and plunge their bills into the water driving panicked schools shoreward toward the shallows where the feeding frenzy can begin. Hundreds of pounds of fish can be consumed in such a sitting. A mass migration of pelicans would mean a new nightmare for Great Lakes sport fishermen who already pace the floor nightly worrying about the Asian Flying Carp invasion that appears immanent. But that's another story. Michigan's lakes offer the Federally protected pelicans a shining opportunity as their numbers increase again. Who could blame them for being smitten with the Mitten but can we be expected to accommodate these needy immigrants?

  Immigration can be a touchy subject depending on what part of the world you live in. As a regions resources dwindle the living must skedaddle or stay to compete in a system whose rules have change. Migration plays a supreme role in the interplay between all living things. Animal, plant, insects, you name it. We generally first experience the issues of immigration in our early days of school when it arrives in the form of the new kid in class.  
The new kid's challenge comes down to fitting his puzzle piece securely into a bewildering new picture. The classic suspicious loner.
 The class forms a more complicated social structure that must make room for the stranger. They have their vested interests and alliances to consider. Whose point of view should take precedence?
When migration occurs on a larger scale the unsettling dynamics are similar to school yard politics. Emotions get hot, rumors run wild, and the bullies seek a victim.

Immigration and migration is at it's essence the insatiable movement of life around this planet.
We are all immigrants.
Okay tough guy, go ahead and try to put a stop to it.

Pelicans are used to this migration business having seen a lot of it in the 35 million years they have flown the skies of planet Earth. That's about the same time our primitive ape ancestors also set up shop and began their journeys. A lot of creatures have come and gone in the pelicans time. They once fished for saber toothed salmon for goodness sake!
  The White European pelican and the American white pelican are extremely similar even though their territories are eight thousand miles distant. It is thought that in those warm pre-ice age days there was a single flock of ancient white pelicans that fed near the warm arctic ocean waters. The group was split in two when the great white North reemerged and pushed them down the two separate continents toward the equator.
The fossil record below is believed to be that of a pelican bill and neck bones from about 30 million years ago, a design so successful we see it today as it was then, virtually unchanged and apparently perfected.  For what it's worth Pelicans can claim seniority status in our emerging world.

Just like its modern counterpart (Image: A. Louchart) 

All of the world's seven varieties of pelicans are spectacular to see in person. The American White variety are among natures largest flying animals with a wing span nearly nine feet across. Their disposition seems to be that of a gentle giant. Due to the loss of suitable wetland habitat pelicans have often been pushed out of their traditional breeding grounds. Are they on the move again, playing the survival game like they have for tens of millions of years? Probably. Thanks this time to those annoying little terrestrially bound apes that have recently evolved into Us, the latest wild card challenge to the White pelicans quest to peacefully fish the wetlands of planet Earth for another thirty thousand millennium.

Now it's time for World Bird Wednesday!

This is the home of World Bird Wednesday. A place for bird photographers from around the world to gather and share their photographs and experiences as they pursue Natures most beautiful treasurers, the birds.
World Bird Wednesday will be open for posting at 12 noon Tuesday EST North America through midnight on Wednesday.


#1. Simply copy the above picture onto your W.B.W. blog entry. It contains a link for your readers to share in WBW. Or you can copy this link on to your blog page to share W.B.W.
#2. Come to The Pine River Review on Tuesday Noon EST North America through Wednesday midnight and submit your blog entry with Linky.

#3. Check back in during the course of the next day and explore these excellent photoblogs!

The idea of a meme is that you will visit each others blogs and perhaps leave a comment to encourage your compadres!
Come on it's your turn!


  1. what great images! such unique birds! loved your migration to michigan input.

  2. I love pelicans and I always am amazed at your flying bird shots! What a difference to my crappy scanned photos... LOL! But I like to share them anyway. :-) About the pelicans in Michigan, well, things are not what they used to be... Storks are no longer migrating in winter, you can find several colonies spending the whole year in this country. And every year you can count more and more green parrots in Lisbon and Oeiras. Global warming?

  3. Beautiful shots! I've been seeing brown pelicans here on my beach vacation.

  4. Fascinating post, and the pictures are spectacular!

  5. Beautiful shots! I love those white pelicans. We only get them for about 6 weeks here in central Florida. They eat up all of our fish and then move south for the rest of the winter.

  6. A wonderful set of shots...the reflections are just stunning! We saw many Great White Pelicans at Lake Nakuru, when visiting East Africa. Although bulkier with more colourful heads, they closely resemble their North American cousins. What I remember most about them is the immense noise that arose from dozens of them squawking at once!

  7. Wonderful pictures and as always I appreciate your thoughtful commentary. White pelicans live (at least part of the year) on the lakes in Colorado, a fact that still astounds me and made me wonder about my sanity the first time we saw them.

  8. Excellent post, as always; and thought provoking too.

    Magnificent birds, and you can't blame them for looking for easy fishing.
    Humans can always turn to other food sources; I doubt these beauties can.

  9. Springman, Great post! I grew up in Manitoba and never saw a Pelican. Now, there all over! I suppose it speaks for a healthy fish population, but then for how long!
    I love your shots! Especially the first one!

  10. I don´t think they would like Sweden. It´not enough fish here to feed them. I never understood why their wings are so large. But it is a cool bird. Someday I will post some shots from CR that I have in store. :)

  11. Great post and photos of the Pelicans, Springman! Love the first capture.

    My World Bird Wednesday post: Hummingbird Elegance

  12. A wonderful series of images of your beautiful Pelicans.
    A lovely bird to see in the wild.

  13. Beautiful birds and photos of them. Very interesting how they are expanding their range. I am waiting for 'ours' to come back from breeding in the outback where there is still a lot of water.

  14. Fascinating set of photos! They are such interesting birds!

  15. This world and everything in it is in constant motion..even when we dont move the world around us will change--this is what I always say to the ones who "say" they prefer to keep their head in the sand.. no matter when they raise that head everything they Ignored changed while they were ignoring it---ah ha!! SO there is no way we can ignore change it comes from every direction and so the Pelicans will fish the G-lakes and the Fishermen will grow old and the next generation will become so used to the Pelicans they will one day try to stop the decline of White Pelican numbers in the Great Lakes--(I predict)
    You have some awesome photos of your subject this week...excellent sharp and crisp action shots---WTG Springman...Im so bushed this week nothing to share but IM on the look out for anything that this way comes!

  16. Awesome shots of the White pelicans. One of my favorites. They have been seen here in Maryland at the Blackwater NWR.

  17. Thanks or sharing this knowledge!

  18. I still remember how amazed I was to see Pelicans inland in Montana since up until then, I thought they were ocean birds. Another lovely post with gorgeous images and a wealth of information! I especially like the first image of the Pelican hopping across the water in preparation for liftoff, it seems!

  19. Hello everyone! Welcome to WBWXXXVI. I'm at the firehouse today and am finding it a little hard to concentrate on blogging. That plus the submissions are so good it's easy to spend a half hour studying each one. Lets hope for no fires tonight so I can explore a whole bunch more bird pictures this evening. Thanks as always for reading my ramblings and looking at my pics. I appreciate your comments, they are so thought-filled and kind!
    Alright, back to the blogs! ;-)WBW

  20. Another great post Dave! That first shot of the American White Pelican is superb!

  21. Springman, Great photos and very interesting info and thoughts.

  22. Wonderfully informative and thought-provoking narrative - and, as always, gorgeous photos!

  23. I really wish humans would take a chill pill and think for once.
    Oh well, don't get me ranting.

    Great post about these awesome feathered creatures!
    I hope they make the migration and multiply to the annoyance of fishermen....!

  24. Hi there - splendid post and equally splendid birds! What surprised me when I saw an Australian Pelican close up is just how big they are! As you point out, these are not small birds.

    Cheers Stewart M - Australia

  25. A very interesting post. I did not realise you had a pelican larger than our's here with a wing-span or 2.4-2.6m.
    Spectacular photos!
    Ours here migrate mainly to seek out new water like our salt lake in the middle of the continent that only fills a few times a century, but when it does the birds congregate from a few thousand miles away to breed as the fish miraculously appear again in great numbers.

    As you say, migrations, like the tides, have been going on almost singe life appeared on the planet.

  26. Well written and well photographed, this article brings some interesting points to light. I am always excited to see birds anywhere and everywhere I can. I do not often think of them as invaders causing trouble for others. You raise some interesting points that require some thought. However, if the birds do come and their numbers increase, what is the solution? Mass slaughter? Or do we have to adapt? Do we kill one species to protect another? The answer, is, yes, sometimes we do, but I hope it doesn't come to that in this case.

  27. AMAZING shots and a great write up!

  28. Suzanne ColletteJuly 27, 2011 at 8:28 PM

    David, Thanks for the opportunity to experience these birds first hand, didn't know Michigan had Great white pelicans -who knew? Beautiful Post Love !!!

  29. Pelicans and pelican'ts, plenty of food for thought here, you certainly are good at provoking dormant grey matter into deep thought, and providing us visual matter to carry us into even deeper realms of contemplative serenity. Should we have more birds eating fish, or more humans eating fish ? And what will happen when either humans or birds can survive on the remaining fish, but not both ? And don't the fish have any say in the matter ? Your photos never fail to astound me, quite honestly... as your thoughts never fail to capture my fullest attention. Thanks for doing what you do, and hoping no fires will perturb your blogging.

    I have to admit, I'm still wondering what sort of lens you have on the front end of whatever camera you are using. Funny, I was browsing on the web earlier tonight, dreaming, looking at Canon's 5D Mark II, and lenses that go with it... Canon makes an 800mm lens that lists for 13,000 dollars ! My goodness, who can spend 13k$ for one lens ??? Just a few of those could pay off the national debt ! Bet you could get some awesome bird shots with it though...

  30. Great photos all around. Do I detect a hummingbird theme?

    Drew @ Nemesis Bird

  31. Thank you for the kind comment on my blog. And thank you too for hosting WBW. This is the first theme thingy I ever took part in. I find that it motivates me to get out there a take some bird pictures with the thought of some material for WBW on my mind. Now only if the little buggers would cooperate with me.

  32. I meant to mention, your pelican photos. Just another example from my post. We have a ton pile of them and it is no big deal. And here your post tells a whole different story. Very nice.

  33. Fascinating info, Springman!! Reading your post I realized I knew next to nothing about the White Pelican. I'd seen it in the Gulf and thought of a subtropical species. How wrong! However I wouldn't exactly call them gentle giants after seeing a video of a WP scooping up and swallowing whole a pigeon that was feeding next to it just minding its own business. Beautiful shots too! It's always a pleasure to visit your blog.

  34. Fascinating! I had no idea that pelicans consumed such vast quantities of fish/posed such a threat to fish supplies...or had been around for so long. I've never seen a pelican in real life so it's a treat to see them so well photographed here.