To me, pelican’s arriving back on the small lake in my community is a sign that warmer weather is truly on its way. After our cold winter, they were certainly a welcome sight. During the winter they are typically found in warm, coastal marine habitats.
They breed in large, dense colonies. Flocks forage cooperatively by circiling around fish or driving them toward the shore where they are easier to catch. During breeding season, adults often forage at night. They eat mainly small, “rough” fish with little commercial value. They will also eat salamanders and crayfish.
New pairs will nest close to another pair who are at the same stage of the breeding cycle. Nests are typically located on open, bare soil. Both sexes build the nest which consists of shallow depression surrounded by a low rim of gravel, soil or plant material. Both sexes incubate two eggs. The chicks are dependant on their parents for warmth and food. Unfortunately, the second-hatched chick usually dies. When the chick leaves the nest they gather in groups called “creches”. Chicks are fed by the parents until the leave the colony at 10-11 weeks of age. In the breeding season, there is a laterally flattened “horn” on the upper bill. The horn is shed after the birds have mated and laid their eggs.
The typical life span of a wild pelican is 10-15 years.
In Ontario, the species is listed as “threatened”.