The Surprising White Birds of Spring
By David Bree
Plenty of birds migrate through Presqu’ile in both spring and fall. Most are birds we see every year but every year there are some surprises. This spring the surprises came in the shape of big white birds. The first were a pair of American White Pelicans on May 12th. This pair spent some time out on Presqu’ile Bay fishing in various locations. For the next 3 days up to six pelicans were reported in the waters around Presqu’ile, then they were gone.
The White Pelican is a bird that nests in the prairies and winters along the ocean shores on both sides of North America, though mostly in the Gulf of Mexico. They have nested in Ontario only in the Lake of the Woods area in NW Ontario up until a few years ago. About three years ago they started nesting in the islands in Lake Erie so maybe not too surprising they would be seen here but this is only the 10th time they have been recorded in the park. Perhaps this western bird will one day nest here in the park. Certainly, Gull Island would be a suitable breeding site for them.
The second surprise white bird was a Snowy Egret that hung about the park from June 4th to the 17th. This small, all-white egret has black legs with yellow feet and a black bill and is about half the size of the more common Great Egret that nests here.
The snowy is a southern bird that nests in the southern U.S. and this was coincidentally also the 10th time it had been recorded at Presqu’ile. This bird was very cooperative, often feeding along the Beach 2 shoreline and would come within 20 metres of people standing quietly along the shore.
While it is always a joyous occasion to see the return of familiar birds in spring, it is the surprises that add a bit of spice to the year’s bird tally. This spring it was the big white birds adding the spice.