Migrating white pelicans arrive in big numbers

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People notice when the snowbirds arrive in Pinellas County.

At Ft. Desoto Park, the term is literal. Huge, migratory, white pelicans recently arrived from their homes up north.

"When those guys start coming in, everybody else is coming in soon thereafter,"  says Lorraine Margeson. 

She is a volunteer with the Florida Shorebird Alliance. Margeson says most years, between 500 and 700 white pelicans flock to the Ft. Desoto area.

"This year so far, we're running more like a thousand to 1,200.

On Tuesday afternoon, the birds could be seen from a distance, with the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in the background.

In wingspan, the American white pelican is second only to the California condor among North American birds.

White pelicans can have a wingspan of up to 10 feet.

Margeson says they don't appear to be affected by recent red tide. She says they feed differently than Bay Area resident pelicans.

"They're not diving like our brown pelicans, they kind of herd the fish in and put their giant beaks down in the water and push fish into each other's beaks," Margeson explained.

White pelican from Canada and other northern areas may continue their migration to Central or South America, but Margeson and other bird lovers are happy to see more of them spending time at Ft. Desoto this year.

She says the best viewing is from Ft. Desoto's North Beach in the morning and the East Beach in the afternoon.