Comments on the American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) in North America languished until Peter Ogden reported trapping one during his 1825 expedition to Utah. Brief accounts of the American White Pelican by ornithologists continued through the 1940s. In subsequent decades, scientific studies uncovered greater details of the species' biology and natural history, although documenting numbers has been difficult and tentative. Estimates of numbers of adults began at 30,000 in 1933, increased to over 100,000 by 1985, and by 1995 the total number of birds, then also including non-breeders, was estimated to be around 400,000. Beginning in the 1880s, their feeding and nesting sites were degraded by engineered water diversions and drainage of wetlands for agriculture. At the same time, pelicans were shot and clubbed, and eggs and young were intentionally destroyed largely because the birds were thought to compete with humans for fish. After the 1960s, hundreds of pelicans died yearly due to the ingestion of insecticides such as toxaphene, endrin, and dieldrin. As recently as winter 1998-99, 800 American White Pelicans died in Florida from poisoning by insecticides that were resuspended from flooded agricultural soils. In 1996 a disease pandemic at Salton Sea, California, killed over 7,500 pelicans in just several months. American White Pelicans have adapted to much persecution by simply moving. Overall, I do not believe that unusual mortalities have threatened their abundance.
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Vol. 28 • No. sp1