The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

State News

April 5, 2010

Missouri: White pelicans calling Ozarks home

The Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Bald eagles might win the attention when it comes to unusual birds visiting Lake Springfield, but the appearance of flocks of big white birds at the lake lately is providing another view of nature on the move.

It appears that white pelicans are putting the lake on their migratory flight routes, a naturalist with the Springfield Conservation Nature Center says.

Birders also have seen pelicans at times when they aren’t migrating, leading to the conclusion that some are making the lake a permanent home.

The birds, which tend to stay in the middle of the lake, provide an added attraction during visits for people like Curt Bennett, who was checking out the lake for fishing, but watched as part of a flock of around 100 pelicans took off from the water and circled in the air.

“I saw those pelicans; what kind are they?” the Abilene, Kan., resident who was visiting relatives asked.

He recently was in Texas and saw plenty of pelicans, but was unsure about the birds at the lake, which had black wingtips.

While pelicans might be a curiosity in the Ozarks, they’re common on the Texas Gulf Coast, Bennett said.

“The pelicans down there, you go out on a fishing boat, before you get your fish up, they try to get it off your hook.”

There didn’t seem to be any conflict between the big birds and human anglers fishing from boats or on the shore, however.

White pelicans are even larger than their relative, the brown pelican, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Bird Identification Center.

The white pelican measures 50 inches in length, with a wingspan of 110 inches, according to the center.

Unlike brown pelicans, which dive into the water to catch fish, white pelicans fish while floating on the water.

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