Where Do Pelicans Sleep in Florida?

November 18, 2023

While walking along the beaches of Florida, you can often see pelicans gliding in formation. They are graceful birds with a massive wingspan and an enormous throat pouch. Spotting them makes for a beautiful sight and can inspire wonder. Pelicans also have a unique way of catching their food. They herd fish together by flapping their wings, and then scoop them up in their pouches.

The brown pelican is a Florida icon, right up there with sunshine and beaches. This year, though, a different kind of pelican is making its way to Florida. The American White Pelican is a migratory species that spends winter in Florida and the rest of its time in Canada and northern states. Its distinctive features set it apart from the brown pelican.

White pelicans typically seek out safer, less traveled environments such as lagoons and mangrove islands – often within geographically protected areas. They are most commonly seen during their winter migration from November to March, although some nonbreeding adults may stay all year around.

To differentiate between a migratory American White Pelican and a year-round brown pelican, look at their head colors. Brown pelicans have a pale brown head, while American White Pelicans have white heads and necks. The color of the bill is also a good indication of whether it’s a migratory or nonbreeding bird. Nonbreeding adult American White Pelicans have black flight feathers visible when the wings are spread, while brown pelicans do not.


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