Over the years, I have spent many hours hunting and fishing around Rocky Point and Pelican Bay on Klamath Lake. I have always been puzzled about the white pelicans. Where did they come from? None of the people in that area seem to know. Do they nest in the marsh? What is their primary food source? Do they migrate in the fall and return in the spring? If they winter over, how do they survive when the lake and marsh are frozen solid?
— Lynn O., via email
Well, Lynn, most of us in the SYA bureau don't get out much, so we didn't even know there were pelicans in Oregon. Luckily for us, however, Stewart Janes, famed Southern Oregon University biology professor and Mail Tribune bird columnist is near at hand.
What he told us is that white pelicans are long-distance travelers. They cover incredible distances during the breeding season. The nearest breeding colonies to Upper Klamath Lake are in Clear Lake and Warner Valley to the east. They think nothing of commuting to Tulelake, Lower Klamath Lake, Upper Klamath Lake or even Howard Prairie for fresh fish.
The birds nesting in Pyramid Lake in northwest Nevada sometimes fly over the Sierra Nevada to the San Joaquin delta in California and back to secure fish to feed their young. A pretty impressive commute.
Yes, they migrate. Our birds mostly end up in western Mexico in winter. A few winter along the Southern California coast. Some birds stop over at places such as Agate Lake and Emigrant Lake for a snack before moving along. A few linger in the Klamath Basin late into October, and early birds return in March, which can make it seem like they stay the winter. They do not.
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