With increasing numbers of White Pelicans showing up in Western Lake Erie
over the last couple of years, it wasn't too surprising to finally find
evidence of nesting. On July 19, I found several nests on Big Chicken
Island (about 7 nautical miles west of Pelee Island).  The island is really
a large reef just south of Hen Island and is in Ontario waters. Many of the
nests were empty but four nests had one egg each and one nest had two eggs.
We found about 30 pelicans on the island at the time but interestingly,
this past weekend, Paul Pratt reported 70 pelicans there. A few days later,
David Moore, while doing a census on Middle Sister Island (roughly 20
nautical miles west of Pelee Island), counted 24 abandoned pelican nests
with cold eggs. Pelicans could be nesting on other islands in the
archipelago as well.

Although the presence of eggs so late in the summer is somewhat unusual, it
is not unprecedented in new colonies. We are monitoring the Big Chicken
colony and ask that boaters keep their distance for the next month as the
birds are easily disturbed.

Please send me any observations you have had of pelicans in Lake Erie in
the last few years. In an effort to document this most interesting
incursion, we'd like to collect past and future records. White Pelicans
have been expanding their range into Ontario's north in the last decade
with nesting attempts in Lake Superior, Lake Nipigon, and James Bay. For
the last three years, numbers of pelicans have been increasing in Lake
Erie's western basin and now it appears that they are breeding!

Rob Tymstra


Pelee Island, Ontario
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