Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Pelicans ~ Kamloops Lake ~ Kamloops, BC

I used to understand pelicans to be a coastal bird so it should be a rare one for our area of Kamloops, BC but that just isn’t so.  The Brown Pelican is the one who lives along the coastal waters, some of whom we have seen before but that was during visits in the Southern US.  The American White Pelican visits Kamloops so we’re going to visit them.

Pelican coming in for landing on Kamloops Lake, BC
The American White Pelican has been making Kamloops a stopover on their migration travels from their homes farther north.  There are several places they spend the summer months in before making their way south for the winter.  They’ve been seen in other places on their stopovers in our area but our visit with them was at Cooney Bay on Kamloops Lake this year.
Pelicans group fishing
In the summer months, they nest in colonies from NE California to as far north as the Northwest Territories then migrate south in September or October.  They spend the winter months near the Pacific Coast and Gulf of Mexico as far south as Panama, preferring estuaries and lakes.  
Pelican having a drink
The American White Pelican will avoid open ocean on their migrations and favor desert and mountain areas for their travels.  I recently heard about the Australian pelican that gather by the thousands at an inland lake only to have to abandon many of their young who are too young to fly hundreds of kilometers to survive as the lake dries up in the summer heat.  Thankfully this isn't a problem in this country.
Pelicans follow the leader
 The Brown Pelican will dive into the water for their fish, or wait for fisherman’s scraps on the pier as we watched in Texas, but the White catches their fish while swimming.  Their head only will be below water when they catch the fish in their big bill taking in up to 20 litres then straining out the water.
Pelican sees a fish
We saw a flock of pelicans on a visit to the Salton Sea in Southern California last spring.  There are lots of fish in this sea which makes for a great feeding area for them.  Tilapia in abundance would make fishing easy for these large birds.  Click here to see those, some of whom just may be in Kamloops first, and learn more about their size and wing span. 
Fish sighting causes some excitement
The pelican is a very large bird and adults will eat 4 pounds of fish every day.  The pelicans are usually in a group of 12 or more and will corral the fish for one another. There are times they fight over the catch but I guess that would depend on the supply; there did not appear to be any fighting here.  
Fish sighting 
These pelicans were near where the Tranquille Creek comes into the lake, bringing a supply of fish to them including the rainbow trout.  They’d float back and forth near the mouth of the creek and occasionally we’d see one reach down for a fish, this often brought a flurry of others to that spot, too. 
Pelican scatter across Kamloops Lake, BC
We counted about 30 pelicans on Kamloops Lake this day, many more than the 3 or 4 we’d seen on a visit here a week earlier. They were spread over a large area of the lake and we likely did not see all of them, we’d heard there were a lot more on this visit.
Pelican came up empty
Pelicans were removed from the national endangered species list in 1987 but they’re still considered endangered in Alberta and protected in all of Canada. The numbers have increased but not to the point they’ve been in the past, but hopefully that will change.
Pelicans coming in for a landing
The pelicans don’t stay for long so it was a great treat to be able to see them during their brief stay here. They’re making their way south for the winter months then return to their nesting grounds in March and April. It was entertaining to watch them come in for their landings, which is skipping along the water until they slow down enough to land. 
Kamloops Lake, BC
The access to Cooney Bay is easy when the lake is at the low level of the season.  It was very windy on our first visit but the second time was better making it easy to walk to the mouth of Tranquille Creek and sit on the sand or driftwood to watch the pelicans.  

What a great way to spend some time and just another reason why there is no place like home.


  1. LOVE the one captioned Fish Sighting - great shot!!!!

  2. Thanks, Karen.

    Elsie sent this message:
    "Absolutely incredible. I had no idea there were any of those birds in Kamloops. I might have seen them from a distance and not known what they really were.Your patience and your skill are to be admired. Keep them coming!!! "