The distribution, foraging behavior, and allied activities of the white pelican in the Athabasca oil sands area

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  • From mid to late summer 1977 an investigation was made of the distribution and foraging of White Pelicans in the Birch Mountains. This study was linked with a breeding investigation undertaken at the pelican rookery as part of the Alberta Oil Sands Environmental Research Program. Aerial surveys, ground observations, prey analysis and prey sampling were conducted. Pelicans were observed to regularly use foraging/loafing areas up to 69 km from the rookery. Timing of diurnal arrivals and departures from all locations showed that the birds belonged to the same population. A shift in concentrations of the pelicans was detected over the summer. Reasons for this shift were advanced. Trends in diurnal and seasonal activities were determined for the pelicans away from the rookery. Basic behavior seemed comparable to that observed at the rookery. The behavioural observations indicated the importance of foraging areas and loafing bars. Habitat features varied considerably for these locations but basic criteria were established for each. The locations of the foraging/loafing areas were determined for lakes in an intensive study area. The diet of juvenile pelicans included brook stickleback, northern pike and lake whitefish. The total fish consumption of the Birch Mountains population of White Pelicans was estimated at between 19.7 and 24.8 tonnes during the 1977 season. It is recommended that this investigation of distribution and foraging of White Pelicans be continued.

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