Best time to travel to Florida

White Pelicans in Florida

When these professional hunters head to Florida from the northern states, local fish should stay alert

Best time: October–March

White Pelicans
White Pelicans
White Pelicans
White Pelicans
White Pelicans

Thousands migrate to Florida from the mountains and plains of the U.S. northwest and they fly non-stop! By spring, like all snowbirds, they head north. White pelicans have a wingspan of 9 feet, making them one of the largest birds in North America. They are graceful in the air, often flying in a formation.

When the first frost comes to northwestern Canada and the USA, life becomes too hard for white pelicans who generally feed in lakes. The water starts to freeze in early autumn, forcing the birds to head south non-stop. Nearly 1,500 birds summon on the lakes of Florida in October. The area is also known for being the year-round home to brown pelicans.

The white species differs from their brown cousin not only with their migration habits but also amusing hunting rituals. The brown pelicans dive for fish, where the white ones form semicircles on the water surface and drive the fish closer to the banks where they can finally catch it in the shallow water. Their funny pouches work quite well as fishnets. White pelicans stay in Florida until March, and in April the warming northern lakes welcome the birds back home.

Practical info

When do white pelicans visit Florida and why?

White pelicans visit Florida from October to March to escape the cold and frost that freezes water and makes it difficult for them to find food in their breeding grounds in the north. The warmer climate and water temperature in Florida during this period provide a better environment for fish to thrive, making it a suitable habitat for white pelicans. They return back to their breeding grounds in the north by April. Show more

What is the migratory path of white pelicans to reach Florida?

From the northwestern parts of Canada and the USA, white pelicans travel south to Florida when the water starts to freeze due to the cold weather. The frost makes it difficult for pelicans to feed on fish, resulting in the birds heading south during migration season. The warmer climate and the suitable water temperature in Florida provide a perfect environment for fish to thrive, making it an attractive habitat for white pelicans. Show more

How do white pelicans hunt compared to brown pelicans?

Uniquely, white pelicans do not dive to catch fish, unlike their brown pelican cousins. Instead, they hunt in groups, forming semicircles and driving fish closer to the banks for catching in shallow water. White pelican's large bill pouch acts as a fishing net for capturing their prey. Brown pelicans, in contrast, hunt by climbing high in the air and dive plunging into the water, headfirst, to catch their fish. Show more

Which are the top destinations to see white pelicans in Florida?

The best places to witness the presence of white pelicans in Florida are national Key West, Miami Beach, Dry Tortugas National Park, and Everglades National Park. Visitors to these locations can engage in activities like bird-watching and exploring the habitats of the white pelican. Tourists can rely on photography and bird-watching tours for detailed information and guidance to explore these natural habitats. Show more

What can visitors do to support the conservation of white pelicans in Florida?

Several conservation organizations and parks work to promote the conservation of white pelicans in Florida, and tourists can support them financially or through volunteering. Contributing to these organizations and following the rules and regulations of national parks and wildlife agencies can go a long way in preserving the environment and habitats of white pelicans. Being cautious of the surroundings by disposing of waste and litter appropriately is essential in protecting the natural habitats of the birds. Show more

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