White pelicans in Southern Illinois?
It’s been a thing for more than a decade. But, people still contact me from time to time, breathless with excitement at the prospect they’ve discovered the impossible. Why not? The idea seemed totally bizarre 20 years ago. Yet, here they are. Migration routes changed sometime ago and now thousands of pelicans can be see on some of the largest lakes in the region — Carlyle, Rend, Crab Orchard and Lake of Egypt among others. I’ve even seen a pelican or two at Mermet Lake. The white pelican actually breeds in the Great Plains and Upper Midwest. I saw huge flocks of pelicans in Nebraska while traveling by Amtrak. Unlike their cousin, the brown pelican, who dives face first into the water from 20-30 feet in the air, the white pelican feeds in a communal group, pushing fish to an enclosed spot where everyone can enjoy the buffet. When people see these magnificent birds for the first time they are justifiably excited. The white pelican is over five feet in length and has a wingspan of over nine feet. To see a group of them hovering high above a lake, banking in the sunlight is impressive. This photo was taken at Carlyle Lake’s Hazlet State Park.