The American white pelican, which stands about four feet tall and has a wingspan of nine to twelve feet, is one of North America's largest native birds. Only the Trumpeter swan is longer, and only the California condor has a wider wingspan.
The bird is entirely white except for its black-edged wings, which are only visible in flight. It has a long neck, a long orange bill with an expandable pouch, and short orange legs with large webbed feet. It nests in colonies, and during breeding season, its bill turns vivid orange, as do its irises, the bare skin around its eyes, and its feet. It also grows a horn-like "nuptial tubercle" on the top of its bill while breeding, which is plainly seen in the Audubon print at right.
The American white pelican breeds in isolated lakes and wetlands from Manitoba, Canada, and Minnesota west to northern California. In early fall, it migrates to its winter grounds in coastal California, Mexico, Central America, along the Gulf Coast, and in Florida.