Brown Pelicans in Dallas County!

2009 March 25
by David J. Ringer

DUNCANVILLE, TEXAS — Last Monday, March 16, somebody on the Fort Worth Audubon Society forums reported seeing two immature Brown Pelicans at Joe Pool Lake. I rushed off the next day but couldn’t find them. Somebody else, however, did. And there was at least one other report over the last week. I visited several times — sometimes to bird, sometimes to jog — but couldn’t find them.

Now, I wish I could tell you that I accepted all of this graciously … but the truth is, I was a bit miffed. As often as I bird the lake, it seemed unfair. Maybe, I thought, somebody saw a distant Great Blue Heron on the wing and jumped to conclusions. (Hey, I never claimed to be a saint. Sorry.) By early this week, I’d pretty well resigned myself to dipping out on the pelicans.

Well I arrived at the dam this morning to jog, and I noted that the water was exceptionally calm. It was also cloudy, so there was no harsh light. I scanned across the lake and — BROWN PELICAN! It was almost exactly one mile away, but it was instantly recognizable and totally unmistakable. And I could just make out the second bird roosting on the marina nearby.

I raced home, grabbed camera, lens, memory card, and hurried to the marina at Cedar Hill State Park, hoping the birds would still be there. I needn’t have worried:






These birds are amazing. I’ve always thought they looked like dinosaurs.

Brown Pelican is a coastal species and is a vagrant inland. So far, I haven’t been able to discover any previous records for Dallas County, though there are other northerly records from places like Fort Worth and Lubbock. But most of these records seem to be from the late summer and autumn. I wonder if the birds came inland last year and have been wandering around ever since? Who knows.

While I was watching the pelicans, I saw some other things of interest.

Double-crested Cormorants are in breeding plumage, sporting curly black ‘horns’ over each eye. In some subspecies, these are white or pied, but I think the birds here represent the nominate subspecies, auritus.

Franklin’s Gulls have started coming back through, and they have a rich pink glow on their underparts. I watched several feeding among ratty immature Ring-billed Gulls.

I also had a male Ladder-backed Woodpecker. Sometimes their calls are noticeably stronger and brighter than those of the Downy Woodpecker, and this was one of those times.


And of course, it wouldn’t be spring without the bluebonnets:


Related posts:

  1. Dallas-area Snow Bunting and Little Gull
  2. (Almost) birdless Dallas
  3. Intimate moments in Ellis County
  4. Back from Taney County
  5. Scoters! Scoters! Scoters!
7 Responses
  1. March 25, 2009

    Pelicans are such incredibly neat birds. I love that head-on shot.

    • David J. Ringer permalink*
      March 26, 2009

      Yes, yes they are. Thanks, Carrie.

  2. March 26, 2009

    I am SOOO jealous! These are great shots. I’ve never seen brown pelicans around these parts (although I see whites all winter long). It’s only at the coast where I’ve seen the browns. This would indeed be worth the effort to see–and photograph.

    • David J. Ringer permalink*
      March 26, 2009

      Well, they may still be hanging around the lake this weekend. Who knows. I’m not quite sure why they’re so unpredictable. Maybe they have several different hangout spots?

  3. March 26, 2009

    Very nice. I went to the lake today but wasn’t as lucky as you. I did, however, nearly run over a wild turkey on my way down Camp Wisdom Rd.

    • David J. Ringer permalink*
      March 26, 2009

      Whoa! Debbie saw one near the Mountain Creek Library a few weeks ago. I have never seen turkeys in Dallas County — oh no, a new nemesis bird. Thanks. :) And don’t give up on the pelicans. They seem to be moving around the lake a lot — or something.

  4. Chivis permalink
    March 27, 2009

    These are nice pictures. I think watching brown pelicans is great fun.

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