SOUTHSIDE, AL (WBRC) - If you ever see a live white pelican in the wild in Alabama, chances are you’ll more likely see them in Mobile, Bay Minette, Gulf Shores or other parts of coastal Alabama.
But over the last few years, from February to April, you might see them pop up in Southside, Leesburg or Ohatchee.
White pelicans are native to Canada, but usually spend their winters along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, according to Susan Doss, Collections Assistant at the Anniston Museum of Natural History. That ranges from Florida to coastal Texas and also includes the east coast of Mexico.
But lately, according to Doss, they’ve become more visible in northern and central Alabama. She specifically mentioned the Cahaba and Tallapoosa Rivers and Lake Guntersville.
We have spotted them this year in Southside in Etowah County, and on Weiss Lake in Cherokee County. There have also been sightings in Ohatchee and near Ashville.
Doss says they’re migrating north to Canada, the Great Plains and the Midwest. Their breeding season is close at hand in the Canadian wetlands.
“They’re stopping by in the shallow lakes, just to rest, you know, stop over, get some food, take a break for a few days, then go on their way, up into the Midwest and up into Canada,” Doss said.
“To us, it looks like the same flock, but it’s not,” she adds, saying different flocks of white pelicans look identical to each other.
Doss advises people who stop to take pictures and video of them to do so from a distance, and not give away their location publicly, because an onset of people looking for the pelicans may scare them away for good. She says they tend to be “grumpy,” like swans.
We spotted them a good distance from the roadway.
Doss also says they’ve been stopping in this area longer than the age of social media. She says the only reason they’re being noticed now is that their numbers are growing and there are more of them.