Back when we had sunny days a couple of weeks ago, I found a lone Pelican resting at the edge of the Grass Lake marsh. What was it doing here, all by itself? Why was it so sedentary, just sitting for hours on the dead cattails? I guess I’ll never know, but the bird has since disappeared. Other visitors speculated that it was sitting on a nest — nope, I verified that when it stood up. Some thought it might be injured and couldn’t fly away. That’s possible, since it was so sedentary, and it did look like one wing was sort of droopy.
White Pelicans, once rare here, now choose the shallow prairie pothole lakes in western and southwestern Minnesota to breed. They have rebounded dramatically from a complete absence of nesting birds over the period from 1878 to 1968 to over 20,000 nesting pairs in Minnesota currently, largely due to the conservation and management efforts of the non-game wildlife staff in the MN Department of Natural Resources.
White Pelicans typically migrate from their winter headquarters in the gulf to Minnesota lakes in early spring (March). It’s a welcome sight to see them in formation overhead, white bodies and wings outlined with black wing tips soaring overhead.
Pelicans are highly social and nest in large aggregations. They live and hunt communally, using teamwork to scare up and harvest fish from the surface of the water. A single Pelican foraging for itself, like the one I found at Grass Lake, might be far less effective in gathering food. I hope it recovered and flew off to join its friends somewhere on a distant lake.