Picture this. Exquisite large birds glide gracefully along the shoreline just inches above the water. If you weren’t looking through binoculars, you’d think you were watching a flock of swans. But these beautiful birds are white pelicans. Distinctive with snowy white feathers and pink-tangerine colored bills, they are often seen flying and swimming in groups. Shy in nature, they avoid open water and prefer isolated areas, congregating close together while remaining less social than their cousin, the brown pelican.
There are plenty of things to love about Florida, but when the white pelicans arrive, they are thought by many to be one of the most spectacular sights to behold. Much like spotting other Florida wildlife such as dolphins or manatees, they often elicit similar shrieks of delight. White pelicans arrive in the fall and stay until late spring. So, now is a good time to see them before they leave on their northern migration.
The brown pelican, often spotted on boat docks, concrete pilings and nesting on mangrove islands, serves as one of the state’s most iconic images, right up at the top of the list with sunshine, beaches and palm trees. Brown pelicans float near fish cleaning tables and waddle along piers and docks. They are also known for their acrobatic plunges, more like a “dive-bomb” head first into the water, filling their spacious bills with a fresh catch. White pelicans on the other hand usually find safer, less traveled environments, such as estuaries, lakes, mangrove islands – often within geographically protected areas. If you are able to get close enough to white pelicans to observe them, you’ll notice their unique food collection techniques. Working as a team, they collectively herd their prey, fluffing their wings to assemble and gather the fish.
Note: There is a complete list of locations around Florida where you can see White Pelicans.