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Government of Manitoba
Sustainable Development

American White Pelican Facts

The American white pelican is a protected species in Manitoba. It is one of the world's largest birds, weighing five to eight kilograms and having a wingspan up to three metres

Pelican guilding

Its huge bill is flat on the top and a large throat sac below. In the breeding season its bill is a vivid orange colour and often has a flattened "horn" on the upper bill. This “horn” is shed after the birds have mated and laid their eggs

Pelican guilding

Adults start nesting when about three years old. While some pelicans have lived up to 26 years, most do not live beyond 10 to15 years of age.

In Manitoba, the American white pelican is a locally abundant breeder on remote islands of Manitoba’s largest lakes (especially Lakes Manitoba, Winnipeg & Winnipegosis) and on islands of lakes throughout the Interlake region. It is currently estimated that half of the Canadian population of American white pelicans (or one-third of the entire world population) breeds in Manitoba.

The American white pelican does not dive for its food. Instead it catches its prey while swimming. Groups of a dozen or more pelicans like to come together to feed, swimming in a co-ordinated fashion to corral fish then dipping their bills into the water and scooping up fish. Each bird can consume several kilograms of food a day, mostly fish, but also eats crayfish, salamanders and other aquatic animals. Pelicans generally eat “rough” fish of low economic value that occur in shallow wetlands.

In Manitoba, pelicans forage widely and are commonly seen downstream from hydro-electric dams, waterfalls, and rapids as well as shallow bays and river mouths. Lockport, near the mouth of and below the locks on the Red River, is typically frequented by up to 200 pelicans at a time in summer. Other good areas to observe pelicans in summer include Oak Hammock, the mouth of the Dauphin River, Lake Manitoba Narrows, resorts on Lake Winnipeg, and hydro dams at Grand Rapids and Seven Sisters Falls.

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