Pelicans – Our Large Friendly Neighbours

Our Large Friendly Neighbours

Hope Pochinko, Red River North Tourism Summer Coordinator

 Imagine this: you’re at the Selkirk Waterfront, watching the river stream by when a large white bird flies across your view of the water. You know the name of the bird the second you see it: a pelican. However, I bet you don’t know just how lucky we are to see them soaring above us.

These birds that predate back to approximately 30 million years ago, spend the warm summer months in the Interlake Region of Manitoba. Here, we are home to the largest number of Pelicans in Manitoba. They use their 3 metre wing spans to migrate to the Gulf of Mexico and points further south.

You may be wondering, what on earth is so special about the Interlake that makes these massive birds stay here for six months? Well, you’d be surprised to know that some of the most common places for pelicans to be spotted is downstream from rapids and hydroelectric dams. We just so happen to have a massive lock and dam of our own in Lockport. This dam offers the perfect conditions for pelicans to capture fish.

Pelicans use their bills sort of like a fishing net. They tip their heads down to strain out the water and then toss their heads back to swallow the fish. A pelican’s bill can hold up to 3 gallons of water.

These large white birds can weigh up to 13 kilograms and can stay aloft for an incredible 24 hours of flapping flight and soaring. Due to its impressive size and grandeur, you would think pelicans would be on everybody’s radar. Sadly, this isn’t the case and they are oftentimes overlooked. Pelicans are known to live as long 15 to 25 years – one captive bird lived to age 54! So, each time you see a pelican, it may be the same one you saw four years ago, or you photographed 10 years ago.

Pelicans return here year after year to breed, to give nest and to just live out lazy summer days along the river. Which makes them just like us! And just as much a part of our community as many of us are. 15 years ago, I moved to Selkirk and became acquainted with pelicans for the first time. I like to think some of those pelicans I see fishing at Lockport are the same ones I encountered back then.

So, next time you spot a pelican, don’t just look away. Give them a second thought and maybe even give them a wave. After all, they are our large friendly neighbours.

It’s all Right Here in the Red River North Region!