Friday, December 4, 2009

December 4: Pelicans

This morning Holly Anderson, editor of The Republican Journal sent me a set of bird photographs taken at 7:30 a.m. by Glenn Wiley from the shore in Spruce Head. (She has also posted some of them on-line at Imagine my surprise when I realized I was looking at pictures of a group of eight American white pelicans! Apparently they left by high tide and haven't been seen since, which is remarkable given that these are probably the largest white birds to ever soar into Maine waters (they have a wingspan of 9 feet). They've only been reported in Maine about a dozen times before, usually one-shot glimpses of single birds, though back in 1874, another group of seven was observed on the St. Croix River.

Undoubtedly these birds blew in behind yesterday's dramatic storm. Am. white pelicans breed in midwestern and northern inland waters--I've seen them in Grand Tetons National Park and in central Idaho--and winter in extreme southern United States. Those warm wet winds yesterday probably carried them into what must have been terra incognita. Here's one of Glenn's photos, also shown at the link above:

Notice the distinctive yellow bills and striking black wingtips. But this setting is definitely not your typical pelican habitat! I hope they enjoyed the novelty of their little foray into Maine waters. This is probably one stray species that isn't in danger of freezing to death up here, but I'm betting that they're heading back south now at a fast clip on those big wings.

Eight white pelicans
blown in by yesterday's storm--
a Maine vacation!

Update (12.7.09): The pelicans were seen by alert birders over the weekend off Rhode Island and then Connecticut, heading south where they belong.

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