Tuesday 9 June 2020

An American White Pelican Drops Into Waterloo

It has been a while since my last post. Generally, these sparse stretches occur when the "naturalizing" is at its peak, and it has been no different this time. However, now that spring bird migration is mostly over I will try to keep posting about Costa Rica, as well as a few of the fun finds from this spring in Ontario.

One of the more recent rarities to be found locally in Waterloo Region was an American White Pelican. This bird was discovered at Columbia Lake in Waterloo by Alison Boyd on Sunday afternoon. My friend Todd Hagedorn called me to give me the heads up, and so I drove up to Waterloo in the evening along with several other local and localish birders.

I arrived around 7 PM and immediately found the American White Pelican floating in the lake, surrounded by Canada Geese, and looking a little out of place! I ran into various other birders - twitching a bird is as much a social experience as it is a birding experience - and we all enjoyed the spectacular views of the pelican as the sun slunk lower in the sky behind us. It spent some time near a Common Merganser, also a species that shouldn't be in Waterloo in June!

American White Pelican and Common Merganser - Columbia Lake, Waterloo, Ontario

The American White Pelican is generally thought of as a prairie species, breeding in colonies in larger waterbodies. It then spends the winter months in California, the Gulf Coast, Florida, and points further south into Mexico and Central America. Historically, the Rainy River District and parts of Kenora District in northwestern Ontario were the best (and only) reliable locations to see this species in Ontario, but in recent decades it has steadily spread eastward. Now, American White Pelicans are common in the City of Thunder Bay, several of the larger lakes in Thunder Bay District, and even as far northeast as James Bay. Southern Ontario has seen an increase in the number of sightings as well; in the last few years there have even been some breeding colonies found in the islands of western Lake Erie. I would not be surprised if Lake Ontario eventually gets breeding American White Pelicans as well.

American White Pelican - Columbia Lake, Waterloo, Ontario

However, this bird represents only the second record of American White Pelican to be identified in Waterloo Region. The first record pertained to two birds flying over near Ayr, found by Brett Fried on November 2, 2016.

Fortunately for many other birders, the pelican decided to spend the night on Columbia Lake and it remained there all day Monday as well. There were some reports from earlier today (Tuesday), but it left by midday and has not been reported since.

American White Pelican - Columbia Lake, Waterloo, Ontario

It was a pretty fun quick twitch, and great to briefly catch up with some friends as well!