Migrating Pelicans Again Providing Iowans With Visual Splendor [PHOTOS]
Some pelicans now make Iowa their home but for most of us, we get to enjoy them only twice a year. It's always interesting to see them at a distance but over the weekend, we got a close-up look.
Sunday, Julie and I made a trip to the Tailwater West Recreation Area at the Coralville Reservoir. A huge number of pelicans were just below the dam, waiting for the water to come through so they could do some fishing. Since then, I've done some research on these unique birds and found out some amazing things.
Pelicans are hearty creatures. According to Mental Floss, a pelican fossil found in France is believed to be 30 million years old. There are eight different species of pelicans, with Iowa commonly seeing the perfectly-named American White Pelican.
Sure pelicans eat fish but that's not all. Mental Floss says they also feast on turtles, other birds, etc. If it fits in their large gular pouch (that giant orange beak) and will go down their throat, they'll eat it. As they draw their head back to swallow their catch, pelicans release any water they pulled in with their capture by engaging muscles in the pouch. Then, their meal goes down the hatch.
One of the most noticeable things about pelicans is the bump or horn on the top of their beak. Turns out that isn't there all the time. According to Mental Floss, that bump is there only during the breeding season, which takes place from late March to early May. Both male and female pelicans that are sexually mature get the "baby" bump, as I like to call it. After the breeding season, it eventually falls off.
American White Pelicans can be up to 4-feet tall and their wingspan reaches 9-feet across. All About Birds says they can vary in size from 10 to nearly 20 pounds.
Even though the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says that hundreds of pelicans spend their summers in Iowa on wetlands and islands inside the Mississippi River, most of us only see them during migration. The large birds make their way through Iowa with their final destination either Minnesota or Canada, according to the Perry News. We typically see them toward the end of March and in April. They reappear in Iowa skies and waterways in mid-August and in September as they reverse course to head south for the winter.
Below are some photos from our visit on Sunday. It was a wonderful opportunity to enjoy one of the many great things about spring in Iowa.