All bird watchers and nature lovers should heed the call. Spring is on its way and with it migrating birds worth noting. The American White Pelican, once in danger of extinction, will make its way to Starved Rock Country and the Illinois River. Visitors to Heritage Harbor and the Ottawa area can catch them en route to Starved Rock Country. Find out more about this long-awaited bird and how to find the best locations to await a glimpse of the American White Pelican.
What You Need to Know
These long-billed, majestic fliers can easily adjust to changing wind patterns. Peter Chaswell, of The Verb ‘To Bird’, said,
“Nothing else flies like that [White Pelicans], serene, untroubled, almost daring the air to throw them an updraft so that they can make a subtle, nearly invisible adjustment to their flight feathers and continue unperturbed…”
These birds were once close to extinction but are now rebounding with the ban of DDT and other harmful pesticides. Visitors should know:
- The American White Pelican is a member of the family order Pelecaniformes and has webbed toes, bills as long as or longer than their heads, and an expandable throat pouch. American White Pelicans have bodies that can be up to 5 feet in length and wing spans approaching 9 feet. They have long necks and white wings with black tips. They arrive Illinois in spring and stay as late as October and take a “V” formation while migrating with flocks that can consist of hundreds to thousands of birds.
- They will roam nearly 50 miles from base when feeding. Nests will be built in a depression on the ground, though some birds have nested in trees. One to five cream or blue-white eggs are laid and incubate for 28 to 30 days. Both parents feed and care for the young.
- They are not divers but instead adult birds swim and submerge pouches to gather a meal in shallow water. While swimming, they behave like dabbling ducks, and can tip their heads underwater for fish. They are also known to work as a group to gather fish.
- The most likely places to spot them on land is along rivers and inland lakes within Illinois. These birds seem to prefer the western part of the state, in particular along the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. They can also be spotted in the Chicago area and near large lakes, ponds and even gravel pits throughout the state.
Starved Rock State Park has been welcoming flocks of the American White Pelican for the past decade with a few bachelor pelicans making the park their home most of the year. This area and Heritage Harbor, with its location along the Illinois River, makes for prime locations to feast your eyes on the magnificent American White Pelican. Contact a friendly associate for more information on the best viewing sites at (815) 433-5000.