Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Brown Pelican at Jordan harbour, Niagara Region

Over the past week or so an immature Brown Pelican has been making the rounds in the lower Great Lakes. One was seen in Buffalo on May 19, and on May 22nd one was found at Newcastle harbour in Durham Region, Ontario. Presumably the same bird is involved but I have not seen photos of the Buffalo bird.

The pelican eventually flew west from Newcastle late in the afternoon on May 22 and several intrepid observers managed to connect with the bird as it cruised past the Toronto waterfront that evening. Despite birders lined up at several strategic lakefront viewpoints further west, it was not seen again that evening.

On May 23 I was about to leave home to head to a job site when I received word that the pelican had been spotted at Jordan harbour. As I was going to be driving past Jordan harbour I dropped in for a few minutes on my way.

Brown Pelican - Jordan harbour, Niagara Region

I chatted briefly with Jean Hampson and Joanne Redwood, both who were in the right place at the right time and were able to stop by to check out the bird. After a few minutes of observation it took to the air, but only briefly as it settled again on a small pier within the harbour.

Brown Pelican - Jordan harbour, Niagara Region

Brown Pelican - Jordan harbour, Niagara Region

The bird can be aged as a 1st year Brown Pelican (born in the 2018 breeding season) due to its overall dingy brown head and face and completely dark bill.

Brown Pelican - Jordan harbour, Niagara Region

While Brown Pelican is widely found in coastal tropical and subtropical areas, they are very rare in the Great Lakes Region. Ontario has a total of 17 accepted records of Brown Pelican, including six records from the summer of 1994, and five records from 2002. Because Brown Pelicans are big, obvious birds that are likely to be noticed by birder and non-birder alike, when one appears it is often documented from several different locations. Therefore, it is hard to be certain how many Brown Pelicans were involved in 1994 and 2002. This is the fourth Brown Pelican to have been documented in Niagara Region, following birds in 1971, 2013 and 2017.

Brown Pelican - Jordan harbour, Niagara Region

I snapped a couple of photos of the Ring-billed Gulls sharing a perch with the pelican. Later in the morning, others saw a Forster's Tern here as well.

Ring-billed Gulls - Jordan harbour, Niagara Region

I only had a few minutes to share with the Brown Pelican before I needed to be on my way, but it was well worth it. It is not often that one has a chance to see such a rare species close to home, with the chance for good quality photos as well. The pelican left but came back later in the day, allowing others to catch up with it as well.

Brown Pelican - Jordan harbour, Niagara Region

In the days since there have been periodic reports of the pelican in Jordan, but it hasn't been "nailed down" and is usually not present when birders stop by. Hopefully it can be re-found in coming days!

Brown Pelican - Jordan harbour, Niagara Region

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