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American White Pelicans

American White Pelicans
Photo Information
Copyright: John Denk (jpdenk) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 307 W: 3 N: 74] (333)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2010-08-15
Categories: Birds
Camera: Nikon D90, Sigma 170-500mm APO
Exposure: f/8, 1/320 seconds
Details: Tripod: Yes
More Photo Info: [view]
Photo Version: Original Version
Date Submitted: 2010-08-17 6:46
Viewed: 3140
Points: 6
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note
American White Pelicans, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos, a bird typically found to the west and north of the area where I live in northeastern Illinois. They do occasionally wander into this area during migration. This appears to be a family, as there are some immature birds as shown by the gray in their feathers. There were 6 of them on a small pond near my home this past weekend, along with lots of Double Crested Cormorants, Phalacrocorax auritus. The pond has a huge population of Carp and Bullheads which is why these fish-eating birds were hanging around there.

They were about 400-500 feet away, so I had to use my longest lens, a Sigma 170-500 F/5.6-6.3 APO zoom at the full 500mm focal length and also added my Kenko 2X extender for all the reach I could get. So on my Nikon D90, the effective focal length was 1,500mm, which was a real challenge even on my heaviest tripod. I used the mirror lock-up (sort of) feature to minimize camera vibration. There was a slight breeze which also caused visible vibrations. I also had problems in some shots with chromatic aberration due mainly to the 2X extender, I think. This was one of the better shots that I got. I had to clean up some CA in Photoshop. It's pretty ugly at full resolution, but looks OK when down sized.

Here's some info from Wikipedia about this species:

It is a very large and plump bird; its overall length is about 5067 inches (130170 cm), courtesy of the huge beak which measures 1314.4 inches (330370 mm) in males and 10.413 in (260330 mm) in females. It has a wingspan of about 95120 in (240300 cm) and weighs between 11 and 20 lb (5.0 and 9.1 kg). The plumage is almost entirely bright white, except the black primary and secondary remiges, which are hardly visible except in flight. From early spring until after breeding has finished in mid-late summer, the breast feathers have a yellowish hue. After moulting into the eclipse plumage, the upper head often has a grey hue, as blackish feathers grow between the small wispy white crest.[2]

The bill is long and flat, with a large throat sac, and in the breeding season vivid orange like the iris, the bare skin around the eye, and the feet. In the breeding season, there is a laterally flattened "horn" on the upper bill, about one-third the bill's length behind the tip. This is shed off after the birds have mated and laid their eggs, and outside the breeding season the bare parts become duller in color, with the naked facial skin yellow and the bill, pouch and feet an orangy-flesh color.[2]

Apart from the difference in size, males and females look exactly alike. Immature birds have light grey plumage with darker brownish nape and remiges. Their bare parts are dull grey. Hatchlings are naked at first, then grow white down feathers all over, before moulting to the immature plumage.

horias, boreocypriensis has marked this note useful
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Critiques [Translate]

  • Great 
  • horias Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 837 W: 58 N: 2084] (11033)
  • [2010-08-17 7:24]

Hi John
Wonderful shot of this pelicans.
Great capture .

  • Great 
  • Scott Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 225 W: 0 N: 356] (1752)
  • [2010-08-17 12:31]

Interesting, I see Coromrants near the white Peli's they used to ruin my photo ops because they "spook" sooner.


Hi again MF,

An excellent work, the details and movements of white pelicans and cormorants are nicely captured. The way of the sunlight also awesome!
Good framing and the soft OOF background is wonderful.
TFS and have a nice day!


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