White Pelicans rarely make an appearance here in the North Basin. All the more remarkable was the visit of this tight flock of eight on a recent morning just after the sun broke through the fog. These birds are big. They range from four to six feet long, including the beak, and have a wingspan ranging from eight to ten feet. Only the California Condor can stretch its wings wider.
These are probably migrants. There are large breeding colonies in Alberta, Ontario, and Northwest Territories, Canada, as well as in Washington, Utah, Wyoming, and northeastern California. In fall and winter, the western birds migrate to the Pacific Coast, some staying in Central California, others proceeding as far south as Panama. They need to eat about four pounds of fish per day, so food availability ranks high on their wish list for wintering spots. This flock of eight was at work scooping below the surface. One of them turned upside down completely like a big mallard dabbling. While I filmed, only one of the birds appeared to catch something.
Photographer James Kusz caught them the next morning and did the second video posted above. This was a few days ago. The next day, these birds could not be seen here. Probably this little flock saw their visit as a rest stop on a longer journey further south, but maybe they’ll be back. We’ll see.
The first 15 seconds of my video above (the first one) is in normal speed. The remainder of the video is in slow motion shot at 120 frames per second. There is no audio with slow-motion footage, hence the background accompaniment. James Kusz’s video (the second one) is all in normal speed.