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Florida’s Migratory Snowbird – The White Pelican

Florida is known for its beloved snowbirds, visitors from up north who make the state their winter home every year.
But one feathered friend gives the word “snowbird” a literal definition we love. Enter the American white pelican.
While the white pelican may be elusive, this seasonal visitor is worth keeping an eye out for all winter long—and there’s still time to spot one! Read on as we get to know this one-of-a-kind snowbird.

What’s in a name?

The American white pelican’s name, at first glance, seems pretty straightforward. It dwells in the Americas, first off—primarily North America, but it can travel as far south as Panama and even Colombia, too. And of course, like its name suggests, the white pelican is clad in bright white plumage, with black coloring only in its underwing—differentiated from the brown pelican, a much darker breed of bird.
The white and brown pelican don’t just differ by color, of course. A few key behaviors make the white pelican an avian that’s all its own…

The white pelican in action

You might be used to seeing pelicans swooping down from above, diving to catch fish in the water. While this is certainly the brown pelican’s preferred method, the white pelican opts for something a little more social. Instead of looking to the skies, check the shore’s nooks and crannies—white pelicans are likely to bob by the water’s edge, sitting on the surface as they work together to catch fish as a team. It’s quite the sight to see, a perfect demonstration of the white pelican’s social side and smarts—how else could it coordinate such a united effort?

Where to look

Wondering where to find white pelicans in the wild? At this time of year, the shores that line Daytona Beach’s famous waterways are a prime place to start. In addition to southern spots like the Gulf of Mexico, our coasts serve as the wintertime home for the white pelican—and until the winter weather up north begins to thaw out, they can be seen flocking around our waterways.
While they head back to the likes of Canada’s Northwest Territories or Great Salt Lake during the summer to breed, come winter they reliably head back down south—so, theoretically, if you were to do lots of traveling in a year, you could spot the white pelican in all stages of its intercontinental journey.
Want to spot this snowbird in action? Search for white pelicans and more on a cruise with The Manatee! Beautiful waterway views and ample chances to spot your favorite wildlife await.