Pelicans in Formation

When I observe birds flying and swimming in formation, I often think of synchronized dancers performing on stage or marching bands, but then I realize that humans are the ones imitating nature. We wear uniforms or dance costumes, so we will look as similar as two birds of the same species, right?

Two White Pelicans foraging together at low tide mirror each other in formation, as the overhead sun casts a mirror-like shadow on all three pelicans in the water. Low tide is feeding time, and on this day it happened near noon. J.N. Ding Darling Nature Preserve, Sanibel Island, Florida, January 2021.

When photographing wildlife, you can’t plan this. You just have to be patient enough to sit and wait, following your subject and continually adjusting your focus. Note: something really cool usually happens after you pack up your tripod and start walking back to the car!

Synchronized Swimming: White Pelicans

These White Pelicans reminded me of swans as I watched them forage together and look like mirror images of each other. As these three swam away from me and kicked up ripples on the surface, they looked back toward the camera.

White Pelicans forage in a small group on Sanibel Island during low tide. This photograph captures their synchronized swimming.

White Pelicans are true “snow birds,” as they migrate to Southwest Florida in winter from the Great Lakes region. Dozens of them return to Sanibel Island every year.

White Pelicans Foraging

Two Great White Pelicans foraging in Ding Darling National Wildlife Preserve. Got one!

Low tide is the perfect time to observe White Pelicans, Brown Pelicans, Great Egrets, Blue Heron and Ibis foraging on Sanibel Island. If you are lucky, you might even see some Roseate Spoonbills. Dozens of these beautiful birds crowded an area where the fish seemed to be concentrated.

The White Pelicans are literally “snow birds” who have flown south to Florida from the northern reaches of the United States for a respite from winter.

At 10:30am, the sun was high in the sky, but the light illuminated the throat pouches on these Great White Pelicans.

“Honey, I’m Home!”

Sometimes do you just wish that when you walked in the door, your sweetheart would greet you at the door with a big hug and kiss? Or maybe just stop what he/she is doing and look up?

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Two American White Pelicans share the sandbar with a cormorant in Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve on Sanibel Island, Florida.

That moment, of wishing for for attention from your sweetie when you arrive — or land on the sandbar — came to mind as I watched these American White Pelicans come and go on Sanibel Island. These enormous migratory birds, averaging 16 pounds, have the second largest wingspan of all birds in North America, second only to the California Condor. This one may have wintered as far north as Wyoming, and now the squadron is enjoying the Florida sunshine and lots of fresh seafood.

As the White Pelicans landed and stretched their wings and then preened their feathers, I thought of so many captions, imagining what the body language seemed to say. (More White Pelican photos to come!)

Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends. May your sweetie look up when you enter the room!

Personal Space

Word on the street is that these White Pelicans migrated to Florida from the Great Lakes region.  Anyone who has driven that distance can appreciate how long that journey is. While they have flown a long way from home, they enjoy huddling together, wing to wing, beak to beak on this sunny evening.

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This flock of White Pelicans on Sanibel Island, Florida doesn’t mind standing in a tight pack on a sandbar just before sunset.

Wake Up Call

After breakfast, at low tide and warmed by the sun, these white pelicans decided conditions were perfect for a morning nap. Until one male pelican arrived and cried out to all of them, “Wake Up!”

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From my perspective, this one male pelican seems to say, “Wake up, you guys!” I’m not sure the relaxed birds are convinced, as they only open their eyes.

The J.N. Ding Darling Nature Preserve on Sanibel Island, Florida is a wonderful place to observe the White Pelicans, Great Egrets, Great Blue Heron and Roseate Spoonbills in the winter months.

Flying in Formation

These two White Pelicans flying low and in unison as they come in for a landing remind me of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels performing in a summer air show. As a spectator, I find myself entranced by the tight formation and flying agility.

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The stunning white pelicans found on Sanibel Island in February are skilled unison flyers.

Having captured this moment in a photograph, I realized that the simple yet striking composition and blue/white color combination would translate well into an oil painting. So, I used my digital paint box to create my best rendering. What do you think?