November 27, 2001 - White Pelicans

They're back! Every year bird watchers wait for the arrival of the white pelicans in Baton Rouge. A few days ago the first ones got here, and the flock has been growing every day since. Pelicans aren't like geese. With geese, one day there aren't any, the next day there are millions.

The pelican is a cautious bird. First an advance scouting party turns up. This year the first few showed up on the University Lakes just before Thanksgiving. Then, while you and I were haunting the malls and tree farms, the flock began arriving in big numbers. Nobody seems to know why they all of a sudden a few years ago took such a shine to the University Lakes, but they're now welcome visitors -- awaited each year with anticipation.

These graceful birds with their nine-foot wingspan are among the biggest in North America. They spend their summers along the Canadian border. In November they come through Baton Rouge -- like any other tourist -- on their way to Florida and Mexico. They don't spend a dime, but they give us so much. White pelicans were taken off the threatened species list in America, but they are still considered endangered in their spring nesting grounds in Alberta, Canada.