American White Pelicans Travel to Saskatchewan Looking for Love

In a pelican version of speed dating, these birds only have a week to find "the one" and engage in charming rituals of nodding and a courtship walk.

Like many Canadian snowbirds, pelicans winter in the southern US and Mexico. But come spring, they congregate at the Last Mountain Lake Bird Sanctuary in southern Saskatchewan. 

Wild Canadian Year producer Sue Turner wanted to capture a really critical moment in the pelican's lives — finding a mate and laying eggs.

Here, American white pelicans breed in a vast island colony that provides protection from predators like foxes and coyotes. They lay two eggs a year, incubate them for a month and then care for their chicks until they fledge about 80 days later. Although pelicans are fairly friendly at most other times of the year, they will abandon their nest sites if approached during breeding season.

It was paramount that the birds not be disturbed so the crew filmed them from a small boat without ever setting foot on the birds' breeding island. Piloting the small boat on a small lake with gusty winds was a challenge but, "the pelicans never paid any attention to us out there," says Turner.

"They're really gorgeous and a bird that we don't always appreciate in Canada. They're not as iconic as some of our other species, like the loon or the Canadian goose, but they're really something special."

 

Click play on the video above to watch.

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