There are Pelicans in Iowa?
Yes, there are pelicans in Iowa! These enormous birds spend their ‘summer vacation’ in Iowa’s wetlands.
Look for American white pelicans in the spring and then again in early autumn, while they migrate through Iowa to or from Canada or Minnesota. They have always migrated through Iowa, but until the late 1980s, they were usually seen only in the western counties.
The Iowa DNR says that pelican populations were killed off in the mid-1900s by chemicals (like DDT) which were found in the fish the pelicans ate, thus poisoning the birds. Now that those chemicals have been eliminated, pelican populations are starting to be restored in Iowa.
Iowa has over 400 species of birds in the state, and two species of Pelican are on that list: The American White Pelican and the Brown Pelican.
In September, more than 10,000 American white pelicans can be seen at an annual pelican festival at the nearly 5,000 square mile Saylorville Reservoir, just north of Des Moines.
Contrary to popular belief, pelicans don’t carry water or fish in their beak pouches while flying. It would be extremely tooooo heavy. A pelican’s pouch can hold up to five gallons of water – which would weigh around 50 pounds – and would be impossible to fly with that much weight.
Once a pelican’s beak is full of water and fish, they tip their heads back to let most of the water spill out the sides of their beak. Then, they swallow their catch head-first.
Do they have any predators in Iowa? Not many, sometimes a coyote can track down an adult, but Pelican eggs and chicks are much more popular and are eaten by eagles, owls, crows, foxes, and even other pelicans.
American White Pelicans stand about four feet tall, can weigh up to 30 pounds, and feature a 10-foot wingspan. Only one other bird has a wider wingspan in the United States, the California condor.
Brown pelicans are the only species to dive into the water from 30 ft above to capture prey. They can also fly up to 30 MPH.
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