Pelicans in a small town

Pelicans have attracted a lot of attention in my small Northern Illinois town. They started showing up about two years ago. As a result, people here have taken a break from talking about sports, politics and the weather to admire these majestic birds.


They gather just below the local dam that supports the local hydraulic power plant. Sometimes there appears to be a large flotilla of them just bouncing in the waves as they wait for a fish to go by. Saw one turn his head sideways, the quickly plunged half its body under water. Just as fast it was back up right with a fish tail sticking out of the bulging pouch.


Later I learned that pelicans will work together when it is time to feed. They will get in a long line on the water and flap their wings to force the fish into shallower water where they can more easily catch them.


Watching them land is an amazing experience. They glide in with webbed feet out to greet the water as they slide onto the surface. I remember watching several of them come in for a landing with two small children. The boy and girl oohed and aahed the way people do while watching fireworks.


Since just watching them was not enough to satisfy my curiosity, I did a quick search. Turns out we’ve attracted the American White Pelican. They can weigh around 30 pounds and their wingspans can reach nine feet. They fly in groups called squadrons, which sounds much more impressive than flocks.


They migrate along the Mississippi River and the town I live in is located on the far Eastern edge of their flight path. They head North in Spring and South in the Fall. Eventually they’ll leave our small town and the local coffee house and restaurants will be filled with talk about the weather, sports and politics. While listening, I will silently hope to see the pelicans return next Fall.



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