I got the Audubon alert early Thursday morning. Pelicans: At logans landing now. I thought the front would bring something in.
We’d had a thunderstorm during the night, breaking the heatwave. American White Pelicans had been migrating to their breeding grounds in the Northwest and usually make it no further east than Wisconsin. But the storm had blown them across Lake Michigan into our area and I found four of them resting on a mudflat at the south end of Boardman Lake.
Number Two began to stir first, stretching its wings, showing its black primary and secondary remiges, or flight feathers. Its bill was a bright orange.
A pelican’s bill can hold three gallons of water. Here you get look at the throat sac. After it catches some fish, it points the bill downward, allowing the water to drain.
With the water gone, the pelican then raises its bill and swallows the fish or crustaceans it has caught.
Pelican Number One begins to stir and stretch its wings, its feathers ruffling in the breeze.
It too does some fishing and gives us a look at its huge interior maw. Unlike the Brown Pelican that you see in the coastal South, the White species does not plunge dive for its food.
Because Number One was a bit removed from the other three, it was fun catching some close-ups of its bill, feathering, and especially the yellow coloring around its eye.
Pelican Number Three has finally awakened. Notice it has a fibrous keel on it’s upper bill, which signals a breeding adult. Once they have rested and fed, the pelicans will resume their migration to their breeding grounds of Alberta, Saskatchewan, northern California, Utah, and Colorado.
Finally, sleepyhead Number Four wakes. It’s the youngest of the group, still bearing some of the brown feathering of a juvenile.
It too gets in on the morning feeding frenzy. The pelican's open bill makes it look like it's laughing.
The pelicans seemed to be done with their meal and were settling down for what appeared to be another rest period. After battling the elements of the previous night’s storm, the layover was much deserved.