Tag Archives: swimming

I Didn’t know that!: Photographing a White Pelican

I love to take pictures of animals. It doesn’t matter what type of animal or how big they are. They are natural subjects that the art of photography can take full advantage of in both a scientifically curious way and an artistic way. Naturally, when I got the chance to photograph a group of white pelicans while they were swimming in a small holding tank, I went for it.

This pelican is truly an incredible bird. The white pelican is larger than it’s well known Louisiana cousin the brown pelican. They may look similar but truly, this 14 pound 9 foot monster of the aviary world belongs in a class all of it’s own.

As with most of my natural subjects, it’s amazing to do a little research and discover little known facts about them. While I was already aware that they catch fish with their large beaks by skimming the waters, I was unaware that they migrate.Pelican

I grew up thinking that pelicans were mainly seabirds that you would have to go to the ocean to see. I didn’t realize they could be found as far north as South Dakota and Minnesota during the summer months. When the weather begins to cool, they start their southerly migration like many other birds.   They use lakes and rivers and marshlands for brief stops along the way.

Their winter destination is usually the Louisiana and Texas Gulf Coasts. But they also travel to areas as far south as Tabasco and Veracruz, Mexico.

Seeing these birds in flight is amazing. They are so big that they rarely like to flap their wings and prefer to coast by soaring on the air currents. In the air they remind me of some type of feathered pterodactyl with their bent wings and huge misshapen heads.

Our recent work Pelican, gives you some idea of the size of those wings. This beautiful bird was swimming around a small fishing dock looking for fish and chasing other pelicans for an opportunity to steal a catch. Its large wing is wet and you can easily see the water glistening on its edge. Also, this magnificent bird is sporting a growth on his bill that advertises his maturity and availability to mate to member of the opposite sex.

The one thing that always strikes me about this image though, is the crystal cold ice blue eyes that it has. I often have an artistic habit of looking for areas of deciding contrast in my subjects.  I feel that it brings the artistic nature of the natural world into view.

It’s that simple love of the contrast between the blue of the eye and the orange of this bill and shaded white of his feather that really caught my attention. It truly is a beautiful bird that deserves a portrait of its own and a place to hang in your home or office. Enjoy!

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Hall, Kristin. “American White Pelican Tracking Map: Migration 2012-2013.” AecGis American White Pelican Tracking Map: Migration 2012-2013. Audubon Minnesota Conservation and GIS, 21 July 2014. Web. 06 Nov. 2014. <http://www.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?webmap=da25d277bfbc42d0946f4b6b953a60b8>.