Family Pelicans (Pelecanidae)

Least Concern

American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)


French: Pélican d’Amérique German: Nashornpelikan Spanish: Pelícano norteamericano

Pelecanus erythrorhynchos

J. F. Gmelin

, 1789,

Hudson Bay and New York


Part of a clade that includes also P. occidentalis and P. thagus#R. Study of individuals from 19 colonies spanning whole North American range found no genetic variation, even between migratory and non-migratory populations#R. Monotypic.


Breeds in inland North America very locally in SW & SC Canada (from SE British Columbia and N & E Alberta E to SC Manitoba and SW Ontario) and in USA E to the Dakotas and S to NE California, Nevada, Utah and Colorado, also in SE Texas; also occasionally in W & NE Mexico (Durango and Tamaulipas). Migrates to Pacific and Atlantic coasts from SW USA and Florida S to S Mexico and Guatemala, rarely to Costa Rica.

Descriptive notes

127–178 cm; 5–8·5 kg; wingspan 244–299 cm; bill 320–365 mm in male, 265–320 mm in female. Adult during courtship has nuchal mane... read more


At colony utters variety of harsh grunts and growls in aggression, also a nasal “ho-ho-ho” during... read more


Rivers, lakes, estuaries, coast; mostly on open expanses of fresh water, but also brackish and salt... read more

Food and feeding

Almost exclusively fish, normally species of little commercial value; typically carp (Cyprinus carpio), chub (Siphateles... read more


Laying early Apr to early Jun. Ground nester, in colonies of a few to c. 5000 pairs; sometimes in mixed colonies with other waterbirds, e.g... read more


Regular N–S migration; all migration over land, at times over deserts or mountains, but... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Global population in first decade of 21st century estimated at 180,000 individuals. Migration counts in E Mexico (mean 85,679... read more

Recommended citation

Elliott, A., Christie, D.A., Jutglar, F., Garcia, E.F.J. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 2 April 2020).