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American White Pelican spotted outside of Fredonia

On the afternoon of June 24, citizens driving outside of Fredonia, Arizona may have been treated to the sight of an unexpected avian traveler - a large American White Pelican catching its breath on the side of the road. Pelicans migrate to Arizona and Utah in the summer to find food and safe breeding grounds in the isolated freshwater of the area, though few are seen this far from major bodies of water.

From left to right, photos courtesy of Fredonia, AZ:

  • Law enforcement sent an animal control officer to ensure no one disturbed the bird while DWR was contacted. Photos courtesy of the Fredonia, Arizona, Facebook page.

  • We don’t often see twenty-pound fishing birds with a nine-foot wingspan in the middle of the desert, but here we are.

The pelican was hard to miss as it rested in the grass of the highway; American White Pelicans are some of the biggest birds in North America. With wingspans upward of eight and nine feet long, and weighing in around 20 pounds on average, it’s not hard to spot such a huge bird. Even with its signature bowed neck causing its silhouette to shrink a little, the pelican still stood half as tall as the law enforcement officer sent to ensure its safety while the Division of Wildlife Resources was contacted. It is likely this individual bird ranged wide searching for good fishing spots and lost track of its colony; pelicans have flight ranges of hundreds of miles, so it could be calling any number of nearby freshwater bodies home.


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With animals like this, it is best to keep a distance and contact a professional for protocol on how to proceed - according to DWR, the answer is to check for immediate danger and leave the animal alone while a trained rehabilitator responds. In this case, the pelican was apparently uninjured, as before law enforcement could get a response from the DWR, the bird took off and flew away northward.

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