The American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos).  Quite large.  Cooperative fishers.  Gregarious.  Blindingly white but for the stark black trailing edge of the wingtips.

American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) sleeping and preening with some American coots (Fulica americana) milling about in the foreground (20081025_14097)

They visit year after year.  When the whole gang comes together, it can be a fantastical sight as these behemoths glide in silently for a smooth water landing.  They soar near the water’s surface with the grace of a ballerina and the power of a jet airplane.

Two American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) standing over two other pelicans trying to sleep (20080114_01174)

Consummate and gifted fishers who do not dive like their brown brethren but instead swim along and dunk their heads underwater to catch fish, often doing so in a group effort that herds fish together for easy pickings, these birds have also been known to consume the occasional pigeon—and to try to consume an occasional cat.

American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) preening at sunrise with another group far in the background (IMG_0109)

Overwintering at White Rock Lake but not living here the rest of the year, these gentle giants offer a splendid cold-weather diversion from gray skies and chilly temperatures.  Their magnificence shines through even when the world around them is barren and desolate.

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