Soaring onto their nesting island in the upper Laguna Madre, this group of White pelicans joins more than a thousand of their brethren in the only nesting colony of white pelicans in Texas.
David Newstead, Director of the Coastal Bird Program for the Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, monitors this nesting site every spring and summer.
“This group of pelicans is unique in that it is the only group of American white pelicans that breeds in a marine environment. A lot of people in Texas think of the White pelican as a migratory species that just comes here in the winter, but there is actually this one colony that persists here and nests, and as you can see here nests very successfully.”
The American white pelican is one of the largest birds in North America with a nine-foot wingspan and weighing some 15 to 20 pounds.
They breed in large flocks as far north as Central Canada and are primarily migratory with a preference for fresh water save for this unique colony.
David Newstead, “This colony has been in existence for as long a people can remember around here. There are records that go back to at least the beginning of the 20th century.”
It has been hypothesized that this group may have originated from a few birds that found the shallow waters of the Laguna Madre to their liking and simply decided not to migrate generations ago.
While it is late in the nesting cycle, some adults still sport colorful reddish orange bills and distinctive horns or fibrous growths that will soon fall off until next breeding season.
“Most of these young are fairly old and are probably near fledging, within a week or two of fledging, some of them may already be making some short flights and going hunting with the adults.” says Newstead.