A species of bird with a 9-foot wingspan not commonly seen in the Lowcountry was spotted in Beaufort County on Wednesday.
While these pelicans aren’t exactly rare in the Lowcountry, they are listed in Hilton Head Audubon Society’s list of “uncommon” species reportedly seen in the area in December 2017, according to the group’s website.
According to the National Audubon Society, the American white pelican is commonly seen in Mexico and along the Gulf Coast during the winter, but its winter retreat is slowly creeping northward. The species’ population declined through the first half of the 1900s but has seen a “substantial increase” since the 1970s, according to the society.
“Most of the world’s American white pelicans winter in Mexico,” according to the National Audubon Society’s website. “While Audubon’s climate model predicts that the species’ winter range in the U.S. will be likely able to expand and shift northward, further research is needed for a better understanding of whether the American white pelicans may be able to adapt to the shifting available winter range or take advantage of the changing climate suitability for the species as a whole.”
This species of bird is duck-like, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and is one of North America’s largest bird species.
American White Pelicans drawn to wetlands and nest on islands, according to The Boreal Songbird Initiative. An estimated 20 percent of these birds return to the boreal forest in Canada to breed each year.
The brown pelican, more commonly seen in the Lowcountry, has a 6 1/2-foot wingspan, according to the Seattle Audubon Society. They’re shaped very similarly to their American white pelican cousins, but the latter are much larger and the two species have different breeding, feeding and other habits, according to the national society.
For more information on the American white pelican, visit: