Residents of Sandy Point were treated to a rare sight Wednesday night, April 20 — American white pelicans visiting Lummi Bay.
Brent Dawson, who’s lived along Lummi Bay for 35 years, at first thought he was seeing trash when he looked out onto the bay.
“I thought it was a cooler out in the tide flats,” Dawson said.
That was before he looked through his binoculars and saw the snowy white birds and their big, long beaks. He kayaked out to them and took photos with his cell phone.
Dawson, who’s not a birder, sent the images to friends. One said the birds were American white pelicans.
He said he saw the birds again early Thursday morning. He said they were hanging out between Sandy Point Shore and Sandy Point Heights, on the very northern end of Lummi Bay.
One of the largest North American birds, the pelicans typically breed mainly on isolated islands in freshwater lakes or shallow wetlands, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Most commonly found along coasts in the Gulf of Mexico in winter, they migrate to breeding grounds in central Canada in summer months.
In Dawson’s photos, the birds have bumps toward the end of their beaks. Those protrusions, which look like flattened horns, are found on adults during the breeding season.
They are rare in the Puget Trough, which includes western Whatcom County, according to Seattle Audubon Society.
Populations of American white pelicans have rebounded from lows in the mid-twentieth century and have grown at roughly 5 percent per year between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey.
They’re listed as an endangered species in Washington state, according to Seattle Audubon, where colonies from historical breeding areas around Moses Lake have disappeared.