American White Pelican

Pelecanus erythrorhynchos




Pelicans (Pelecanidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:


Number of Eggs:

1 - 2

Incubation Days:

29 - 36

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Location:

On ground.

Nest Material:

Built-up dirt and rubbish.





American White Pelican: Huge, white seabird with enormous outstretched wings showing black primaries and outer secondaries in flight. Bill and legs are bright orange and upper bill develops a fibrous keel during breeding season. Winter adult is duller and lacks keel on bill. Juvenile has gray bill and brown wash on head and neck.

Range and Habitat

American White Pelican: Breeds from Alberta and Saskatchewan south to northern California, Utah, and Colorado; also breeds along the Gulf Coast in southern Texas and northern Mexico. Spends winters in the southern U.S. in California, Arizona, and the Gulf Coast states south to Panama. Preferred habitats include shallow lakes and coastal lagoons.

Breeding and Nesting

American White Pelican: Nests in colonies, laying one or two white eggs on a low mound built from mud and debris. Nesting colonies are usually located on marshy islands, but occasionally on rocky islands in desert lakes. Incubation ranges from 29 to 36 days and is carried out by both parents.

Foraging and Feeding

American White Pelican: Feeds mostly on fish while swimming, snatching prey with large bill; groups may concentrate prey by herding. An adult pelican can consume up to 4 lbs of food each day. Unlike the Brown Pelican, this bird does not plunge dive for food.


American White Pelican: Emits grunts or croaks on nesting grounds.

Similar Species

American White Pelican: Wood Stork has a black tail, a dark, featherless head and neck, and long legs that trail beyond tail in flight. Brown Pelican has gray-brown upperparts, dark wings, and a darker bill. It also plunge dives for fish while flying.

Outer secondariesX
The outer secondaries are the secondary feathers of the wing furthest away from the body.
The primaries are the flight feathers specialized for flight. They are attached to the "hand" equivalent part of the wing.
Flight feathers that are attached to the wing in the area similar to the human forearm and between the body and the primaries.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X