Pelicans at Sunrise

Arriving at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area just before sunrise, my friend and I encountered a large flock of American white pelicans, lounging on a sandbar and illuminated by the glow of a nearly full moon.  As the sun crept above the river hills to our east, the pelicans began to stir, leaving in groups to flap and glide above the refuge pools.

During our two hour visit, more pelicans were encountered (at least 300) and flocks of these magnificent birds continuously moved above the floodplain, their wings reflecting the bright morning sun.  Joined by bald eagles, double-crested cormorants, Canada geese, various ducks, pied-billed grebes, great blue herons and a mix of shorebirds, the pelicans were certainly the highlight of our visit.

On their way up the Missouri River, American white pelicans attract birders to Eagle Bluffs every spring; they generally stop at the refuge from mid February through April though non-breeding birds may be encountered throughout the warmer months.  Headed for breeding lakes across the Northern Plains, the pelicans will return to the Heartland in autumn as they fly toward wintering bays along the Gulf Coast; during that season, they tend to use a limited number of staging areas and do not usually appear at Eagle Bluffs in large numbers.