Pelicans Migration | How Do Pelicans Migrate? Is Pelican A Migratory Bird?

Any of the eight species of water birds in the genus Pelecanus that make up the family Pelecanidae (order Pelecaniformes) are known as pelicans.

Identify backyard birds of Massachu...
Identify backyard birds of Massachusetts!

They are characterized by having huge, elastic throat pouches. Many locations around the world have pelicans living in their lakes, rivers, and seashores. The eight species of pelicans are enlisted below:

  1. American white pelican
  2. Dalmatian pelican
  3. Brown pelican
  4. Great white pelican
  5. Pink-backed pelican
  6. Australian pelican
  7. Peruvian pelican
  8. Spot-billed pelican

Do pelicans migrate? Is Pelican a migratory bird?

Only four of the eight species of pelicans are considered to be completely migratory. Their primary goal is to find a warm and nutritious environment.

Most of the time, these birds travel only a short distance to reach this ideal habitat.

The four species which are considered to be migratory are:

  1. American white pelican
  2. Dalmatian pelican
  3. Brown pelican
  4. Great white pelican

How do pelicans migrate?

The migration patterns and behaviors of different populations of the same species vary depending on their location. For instance, some pods will travel longer distances than others.

Although they are capable of flying non-stop, the pelicans prefer to take breaks throughout their journey to replenish their energy reserves.

The large size of the birds and their ability to soar quickly make migration a relatively easy task.

Usually, the flock flies in a V-shaped formation that helps minimize energy consumption and provides a more accurate flight path. When the front birds tired out, they swap roles.

Are all pelicans migratory?

No, not all the pelicans are migratory. Only four species listed in a prior section are considered to be migratory.

Do white pelicans migrate?

The American White Pelican is a migratory bird that typically travels from North America’s Alberta, Northwest Territories, Washington, Ontario, California, and other regions to the Gulf of Mexico, southern California, Florida, and Panama.

Colombia may be an unusual destination for some. Rarely do American white pelicans move to Texas or Central America.

Do brown pelicans migrate?

The brown pelican is a migratory bird that occasionally travels along the coast from northern locations like New Jersey and British Columbia to the north of Chile and the Galapagos Islands.

The migration of brown pelicans is intricate and highly unpredictable. On the Atlantic side, some Brown pelicans migrate north during the winter instead of south, most likely in search of fish.

Do pelicans migrate in flocks?

Yes, pelicans usually migrate in flocks. Due to this fact, they are an amazing sight while migrating because they typically fly in a “V” or line formation.

Why do pelicans migrate from one place to another?

Pelicans like to move to warmer climates in the winter since they are specialized in living in temperate and subtropical habitats.

This explains why nearly all pelicans in North America and Europe migrate, but southern species in Africa and Asia hardly ever do so or only do so locally.

Pelicans move in search of food as well. For instance, the Brown pelican may occasionally migrate north rather than south, likely as a result of the abundance of their preferred fish during the winter months.

Where do pelicans migrate to and from?

Pelican Migration in the USA:

Depending on where it breeds, the American white pelican migrates to various places. For instance, those that breed south and east of the Rocky Mountains migrate to the Gulf of Mexico.

Do pelicans in California migrate?

Yes, California is inhabited by the American white pelicans and they migrate towards the Gulf of Mexico, southern California, Florida, and Panama.

Do pelicans migrate through Texas? 

No, pelicans rarely migrate between Texas and Central America.

Do pelicans migrate from Florida?

Florida is considered to be one of the famous migratory spots for the American white pelicans.

Where do pelicans of North America live?

Southern California, the Gulf States, Mexico, and Central America are destinations for migratory northern breeding populations.

Do pelicans in Australia migrate?

The Australian pelican is often not migratory, however, it does wander within its range, which includes Australia, New Guinea, Fiji, Indonesia, and the South Pacific islands.

When do pelicans migrate?

Pelican pods and migratory species typically depart around the conclusion of the average nesting season, which typically begins in April or May.

Pelicans on the migratory route begin flying south near the conclusion of the summer, usually in September and October.

Pelican colonies or pods are well recognized for their erratic migratory patterns. Like other birds, they don’t migrate according to a regular clock or calendar; instead, they appear to migrate early some years and later others.

What weather do pelicans like?

Although their distribution can extend to temperate climate types with defined seasons, these birds can be found on all continents with the exception of Antarctica.

They typically live in warm regions near inland or coastal waters like lakes and rivers.

Although they are freshwater or coastal waterbirds, pelicans usually stay away from the open sea.

Lagoons, lakes, coastal beaches, marshes, and other wetlands are their favored habitats. They like to gather whenever they can live on islands.

Do pelicans migrate in winter? Where do they go?

Yes, pelicans migrate in winters since these are birds that are adapted to live in temperate and subtropical environments.

As a result, during the winter, pelicans migrate to areas with warmer climates.

The majority of pelican populations migrate southward because of their dislike of the cold winters, despite the fact that they are large and sturdy birds.

Most southern populations are settled or sedentary, such as those in Central America, Texas, and Florida in the Americas, as well as Africa, South Asia, Australia, and the islands in the Pacific Ocean in the rest of the world.

The following pointers explain the migration patterns of the four species that are migrants:

  1. American white pelican: Depending on where it breeds, the American white pelican migrates to various places. For instance, those that breed to the south and east of the Rocky Mountains migrate to the Gulf of Mexico. Pelicans typically migrate to the Pacific coast from the west side of the Rockies.
  1. Brown pelicans: Additionally, brown pelicans frequently fly down the east or west coast of the United States. Others go to east Mexico, the West Indies, Venezuela, and Colombia, while others land in Chile, Peru, and Ecuador.
  1. Great white pelican: Great white pelicans go to East Africa and South Asia from East Europe and Central Asia, including Kazakhstan and Russia. Some colonies from East Asia fly across to Indonesia. Great white pelicans are widely distributed, therefore it’s still unclear exactly how they migrate.
  1. Dalmatian pelicans: Either Eastern Europe, Central Asia, or Russia are often where Dalmatian pelicans breed. While inhabitants from Central Asia and Russia typically travel to the Indian subcontinent, Iran, and Iraq, those from Eastern Europe frequently migrate to the Mediterranean. Even further south in India, several pelicans can be seen.

Do pelicans migrate in summer? Where do pelicans live or migrate in summer?

Yes, pelicans move to areas with abundant food supplies in the summer as their nesting season draws to a close. Typically, this starts in April or May.


Because pelicans have such a vast range and because various colonies or pods exhibit diverse migratory behaviors, pelican migration is still poorly understood.

For knowing it better, one can always look at the geographical location in which the particular specie of pelicans live, understand the reason behind their migration, and cite the closest location which might fulfill the target needs.

Intro Video - Backtobirds