Pelicans in West Mich.

Snowbirds who are returning from the South may have brought pelicans back with them.
Marie Havenga
May 9, 2013

Some residents along Howard Avenue in Spring Lake Township on Wednesday morning spotted a single white pelican swimming in Petty's Bayou. Later in the day, an entire flock of American white pelicans flew above the water toward the Spring Lake Country Club.

Tom Bishop said he saw the single pelican on the bayou Wednesday morning.

“I've never seen them out there before, ever,” said Bishop, who has lived at 15464 Howard Ave. since 1986. “I don't know what the deal is with the pelicans. They've never used this as a stopover before, that I know of.”

The southern visitors resemble swans, except for their long, orange beaks and the dark feathers under their wings when they take flight.

The local sighting is unusual, but not unheard of, according to Chuck Pistis of the Michigan Sea Grant Extension program.

“I've seen a handful over the years,” he said.

Pelicans typically spend the winter in the Gulf of Mexico and other southern waters, then migrate to northern regions such as Canada and Minnesota for nesting.

“Occasionally, we get a bird or birds that stray,” Pistis said. “There's abundant food for them here, so they'll spend some time and rest up.”

To read more of this story, see Friday's print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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