American White Pelicans thriving in Northeast Wisconsin

DE PERE, Wis. (WFRV) - A large aquatic bird that has become a familiar sight in Northeast Wisconsin is thriving in the Bay of Green Bay. As Local 5's Kris Schuller reports the American White Pelican now makes our area its summer home.

On the churning waters near the Fox River dam in De Pere - American White Pelicans perch. They are members of a growing colony that has found a home on the waters of Northeast Wisconsin.

“We have a pretty good population of white pelicans,” said DNR Wildlife Biologist Josh Martinez. 

Martinez says the white pelican first appeared in the area in low numbers in the mid 90's. Now there are over 2,000 nesting pairs out on the islands of the lower Bay of Green Bay.

“The birds come back more and more, they're bringing birds with them, their young come back to the area and now they are pretty prolific up and down the Lake Michigan shoreline,” said Martinez. 

Pelicans that amazingly use to nest in North Dakota.

“There was a push out of North Dakota when there were some nesting failure years in that area. We had some birds start wandering, some may have gotten blown off course to a new flyway and found the Green Bay area,” Martinez said.

Wildlife experts say the pelicans winter along the Gulf of Mexico and return each spring because of the bounty these waters hold.  Thanks to ongoing environmental efforts fish are plentiful in the Bay of Green Bay and Fox River.

“They'll work together to herd fish into the shoreline or some other obstacle and force them to the surface in shallow water and you'll see all their heads go down at one time,” said Mike Reed, director of the Green Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.

“There is a lot more productivity in the bay then there was two decades ago, the productivity in our fisheries is a big part of that,” said Martinez.  

And as long as these pelicans have a place to nest and fish to eat - they will return.

“It's neat, they are a big water bird and fun to watch them fly over,” said a fisherman near the De Pere dam. “Kind of like a big plane when they are in the air.”

“I think they're here for the long haul – yes,” said the wildlife biologist.

 

 
 


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