American White Pelicans make pitstop in South Lake Tahoe

Cheyanne Neuffer

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A large flock of white pelicans were recently spotted in South Lake Tahoe.

While some may think they are ocean dwelling birds, the American White Pelicans migrate inland in the spring in search of nesting locations safe from people and predators.

“American White Pelicans are now and then seen at the South Shore,” Don Harriman of Bird Tahoe said in an email. “Many migrating species find Tahoe’s marsh areas inviting places to stop and refresh on their long flights to and from breeding grounds. We’ve seen groups at the Upper Truckee delta a number of times.”

Sarah Hockensmith of Tahoe Institute of Natural Science also said it’s pretty common to see American White Pelicans in Tahoe in the spring and fall months.

The pelicans who appear at Lake Tahoe are in the middle of a migration and are stopping for food and to rest. She says they spend winter months at the coast around Southern California and then migrate inwards for nesting season.

“These birds are great migrators,” said Hockensmith.

These prehistoric looking birds fly in the “V” formation to reduce wind resistance and conserve their energy. While the pelican is mostly white, their under feathers are black which means their wings are more durable for their biannual migration. Pelicans also have large bills to scoop up fish and other aquatic invertebrates. Their wingspan is also roughly 9 feet.

Pelicans have been seen nesting in a few areas in California and Nevada, but one of their most prominent nesting locations is on the other end of the Truckee River at Pyramid Lake, Nev.

Pyramid Lake is just north of Reno and part of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Indian Reservation.

While the lake is known for the massive pyramid shaped island on the southeastern shore, it has another important island, Anaho Island.

Anaho Island reservation is one of the largest nesting colonies for the American White Pelican. The reservation was deemed as a National Wildlife Refuge in 1913. It serves as a breeding ground and preserve for native birds.

When fall arrives, the pelicans migrate back to the coast, making a pitstop in Tahoe on their way.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.