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American white pelican

American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)
Photo © David W. Brewer

Features and Behaviors

An adult American white pelican stands 62 inches high. It has white feathers with black wing tips. Both sexes are similar in appearance. This bird has a long, flat, yellow-orange bill. The neck is long and has a throat pouch.

The American white pelican is a migrant through most of Illinois. It winters in the southern United States, along the Gulf of Mexico. It breeds in the northern plains states and Canada. The American white pelican may be seen on rivers, ponds, lakes or marshes. These birds fly in lines. Its call is a long groan. The American white pelican eats crustaceans and fishes. It does not plunge to get fish, but simply scoops up fish while it is paddling on the water. These birds often work in groups to feed.

Illinois Range


​Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Pelecaniformes
Family: Pelecanidae

Illinois Status: common, native