One of the refuges I visited in December, while in Florida, was Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge located on the east coast near Titusville. The refuge has over 140,000 acres and provides a wide variety of habitats: coastal dunes, saltwater estuaries and marshes, freshwater impoundments, scrub, pine flatwoods, and hardwood hammocks. I had a very exciting and productive day at Merritt Island having seen many types of waterfowl, wading birds, and a variety of other birds to include about a dozen American White Pelicans early in the morning–when the light is right for nature photography.
I was photographing a Blue Heron and a few Snowy Egrets when the pelicans flew into the area and landed on the pond. It was an amazing sight seeing the dozen large pelicans circle the pond and then land in the water right in front of me. They swam around the pond for about 30 minutes, and as quickly as they came, they took off and were gone, but not before I could photograph them.
Unlike the Brown Pelican, the American White Pelican does not dive for its food. Instead, it catches its prey while swimming. Several pelicans may fish cooperatively, moving into a circle to concentrate fish, and then dipping their heads under simultaneously to catch fish. Adult male pelicans can weigh as much as 30 pounds; however, they average 20 pounds. Apart from the difference in size, males and females look exactly alike. Their wingspan is between 95-120 inches.
I enjoyed watching and photographing them as they swam around the pond looking for fish. However, I do not think they located any fish, because I did not see them feeding, and that could be why they did not stay on the pond very long. Below is an image of one of the pelicans that came up empty handed, or would it be more appropriate to say empty billed.
I loved the way the morning light lit up and highlighted parts of the pelican’s body, face and bill (below), while the shadows defined its features.
The White Pelicans stayed on the pond long enough for me get a lot of images of them. If I did not shoot another bird or landscape that day, I would have left the refuge very pleased. However, that was not what happened. I will post more images from the refuge at a later time.
Click twice on the images to see them in more detail.