BROWNSVILLE, Texas – The Rio Grande Valley is home to a variety of feathered winter Texans, and local resacas provide a welcome haven for flocks of American white pelicans.
The Rio Grande Valley is a prime destination for avian winter visitors, and a couple of dozen American white pelicans have selected this Brownsville resaca as one of their favorite sites.
It’s early morning, and these pelicans are relaxing while tending to a little feather maintenance prior to their next foray into the water.
American white pelicans are among the largest birds in North America with a nine-foot wingspan and weighing some 15 to 20 pounds. When a group of resident whistling ducks swims by, the pelicans tower over them.
The pelicans seem happy to share their resaca winter home with a variety of visitors from the occasional cormorant to a trio of turtles.
This pelican does not seem the least perturbed by a large red-eared slider practically lounging on its webbed feet, while another nearby pelican calmly accepts the arrival of a big spiny soft-shell turtle.
One pelican has a silver band on its leg, but the identifying numbers are difficult to discern. However, two other pelicans that frequent this resaca have bands that revealed them to both have originated from Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge in North Dakota.
Finally, their leisurely grooming session over, the pelicans enter the water and begin seining for fish.
Unlike Brown pelicans, American white pelicans do not dive, but rather swim gracefully along dipping their large pouched bills as they scoop up fish.
Often congregating in small groups, they cooperate with one another to corral prey, and each bird can easily consume more than four pounds of fish a day.
After their morning swim, the pelicans return to perch where they will likely share their midday South Texas siesta with a sunning turtle.