More endangered American White Pelicans photographed in the Okanagan - InfoNews

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More endangered American White Pelicans photographed in the Okanagan

This American White Pelican was photographed near the mouth of Vernon Creek by Jack VanDyk.
Image Credit: Jack VanDyk
April 27, 2019 - 1:00 PM

KELOWNA - Not many American White Pelicans pass through the Okanagan on their way to their summer nesting grounds, but at least three people were able to capture pictures of them this week.

On Monday, published photos, taken by Annemarie de Jong, of five pelicans in Okanagan Lake at Peachland.

Today, April 26, we offer these photos by Jack VanDyk, an avid birder with the North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club, taken on the same day.

Jack VanDyk found the birds huddled against the wind at first.
Jack VanDyk found the birds huddled against the wind at first.
Image Credit: Jack VanDyk

He took these photos near the mouth of Vernon Creek as they “huddled together on a partly submerged sandspit, as it was rather cool and windy, but one decided to go for a swim,” VanDyk wrote in an email.

He added that, while sightings are somewhat rare, the birds can be seen around the same time in the spring and fall as they migrate to and from their only breeding grounds in B.C., which is Stum Lake in the Chilcotin.

In checking his records, VanDyk found that he had spotted eight pelicans on April 29, 2018, at almost the same spot on Okanagan Lake.

But, VanDyk noted, they “can be seen sometimes in summer as some non-breeding birds stay around."

Then they started to stir.
Then they started to stir.
Image Credit: Jack VanDyk

The birding web site, eBird Canada describes the American White Pelican as: “Extremely large and conspicuous. White with black wingtips. Very long, orange bill with pouch for scooping up fish. Forages in flocks, swimming together to concentrate fish. Often soars in flocks, infrequently flapping, during migration and when traveling between feeding sites.”

On that site, Brad Vissia posted pictures of a small flock of the birds passing over Rose Valley Regional Park that same day.

The site also has pictures taken by Nick Swan on April 18, 2017 near the mouth of Powers Creek in West Kelowna.

And one got ready to go for a swim.
And one got ready to go for a swim.
Image Credit: Jack VanDyk

The nesting ground in Stum Lake is about 70 km west of Williams Lake in Stum Lake Provincial Park.

The pelicans were first spotted on the lake in 1939, according to a B.C. government web site.

The birds prefer nesting in shallow lakes and use two low islands as their primary nesting grounds. They are vulnerable to things like fluctuating water levels and even coyotes raiding their nest.

In the 1980s there were about 100 nests. That number grew to 400 by 1993, the site states.

While there haven’t been any detailed counts, it’s estimated there are 50,000 mating pairs, with 30,000 nesting in Canada as far east as Western Ontario.

The pelicans only live in North America, where various states and provinces have legislation protecting them. In B.C., they are designated as an endangered species, the site states.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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