Distribution, Abundance and Habitat Use of American White Pelicans in the Delta Region of Mississippi and Along the Western Gulf of Mexico Coast

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King, D. Tommy; Michot, Thomas C.
Aerial surveys; American White Pelican; Gulf of Mexico coast; habitat use; Louisiana; Mississippi; Mexico; Pelecanus erythrorhynchos; Texas; Environmental Sciences
article description
Aerial surveys of American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) were conducted over coastal Louisiana and the delta region of Mississippi on 1-2 days during December, February, and April each year from 1997 to 1999. Additional surveys were conducted in coastal Texas and Mexico during January 1998 and 1999. The numbers, location, and habitat of all pelicans observed were recorded. The coastal zone of Louisiana consistently had higher numbers of pelicans (18,000 to 35,000 birds) than other areas surveyed (3,000 to 8,000 birds), indicating that Louisiana may be the most important wintering area for American White Pelicans east of the Rocky Mountains. Among the four regions surveyed, the average size of pelican flocks was largest in Mississippi during January-February, particularly in 1999 ( = 245 birds/flock). Pelican numbers in Mississippi peaked in February but in Louisiana they were more variable. Pelicans in the delta region of Mississippi were found most often in fresh water and sand bar habitats during December, flooded field habitats during February, and catfish ponds in April. In Louisiana, pelicans used fresh, intermediate, and brackish marshes during December, but showed a preference for brackish and saline marshes in February and April.