What’s the deal with the white pelicans?

White pelicans on Lake Morton | Photo via @silly_runner_girl

We all know and love Lakeland’s famous mascot: the swan. But what about the other flocks that inhabit local lakes and spots around town, like the white pelican

Last month, reader Tracy N., asked us where the white pelicans come from each winter. And, while the royal avians made their way here via the Queen, the pelicans have their own story.

A migratory bird weighing in as one of the biggest birds in North America, these avians boast a nine-foot wingspan + come to Polk County every winter in flocks. Unlike their relative, the brown pelican which inhabits the Sunshine State year-round, the white birds are typically found along the coast or inland along lakes and rivers. 

And, that’s just about all they do. While in Florida, the birds don’t nest or breed — that’s reserved for their home in Canada, and live off of minnows, panfish, sluggish bottom feeders, salamanders, tadpoles, and crayfish. 

Unfortunately for our permanent waterfowl like swans, ducks, and geese, the pelicans’ size allows them to easily steal food from other birds, and they tend to squawk out low grunts to assert their dominance. Now, in the heart of winter” here in Florida, it’s a great time to check out the birds in person, before they migrate back to our neighbors of the north in March.

To watch the white pelican, bird enthusiasts say the best spots to see them in action in Lakeland are Circle B Bar Reserve, Lake Morton, Lake Mirror, and Lake Hollingsworth.