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Just how rare are the visitors that flew into the Sunshine Coast last week?

A flock of 26 pelicans made a rare stop by the Sunshine Coast last week.
C. Pelicans
Two species of pelicans occur in B.C. and both are rare visitors to the Sunshine Coast – but many people reported the 26 pelicans who spent a few days in Porpoise Bay.

The flap began on the afternoon/evening of May 4 when a number of people in Porpoise Bay were amazed to look out and see what was immediately identifiable as a flock of pelicans. Perhaps there is no bird species in the entire world more recognizable than a pelican, as we all grow up with their image from our babyhood, whether we live in areas where they naturally occur or not. Soon afterwards, the electronic media swung into action with e-mails, phone calls, and photos of the flock (26 birds) on websites. The first reports I received were from Sandra Borno who spotted the flock at 3:30 p.m. from Gale Avenue North, Ron Nelson at 5 p.m. and at 6 p.m. by Michelle Skjerpen when the birds were at Snake Bay. I did not check my e-mail till 7 p.m., when I put the word out. It turned out later that the first report was actually by Caroline and Allan Jensen who spotted the flock at 3:15 p.m. as it flew over Sechelt and into the inlet and posted their sighting on e-bird. Thanks to all for the reports. 

The fact that the sighting was released late in the day on a dismal evening caused some angst among local birders anxious to see and photograph the flock, but all was well, as the birds were relocated the next morning and eventually stayed for three more days and were generally easy to locate around the head of Porpoise Bay, including out on the mudflat.  

Two species of pelicans occur in B.C. and both are rare visitors to the Sunshine Coast. Brown pelicans do not breed in Canada but they occur around the Salish Sea, most often in the August-November period. White pelicans are a common breeder on lakes in the Prairie provinces, but their only breeding location in B.C. is at Stum Lake in the Chilcotin, west of Williams Lake. During migration to the Chilcotin they occasionally wander westward and that is when we see them on the Sunshine Coast. To date, I have seven local records of white pelican, with four in the spring and three in the fall. This was the largest   flock reported.  

Visitors to the Sechelt Marsh will have seen the memorial cairn and plaque commemorating “Chack-chack’’ or Vince Bracewell. Vince was a local naturalist, and an early president of the Sechelt Marsh Protective Society which eventually became the Sunshine Coast Natural History Society. When we were compiling the first checklist of Sunshine Coast Birds back in the 1980s, Vince reported to me that he had once observed white pelicans at Snake Bay on an unknown date ‘’in the 1970s.” I filed this information and it always stayed with me as an unresolved record, perhaps awaiting corroboration if the species ever appeared there again. It was a long time coming, but now 50 years later, it seems that Chack-chack observed the first Sunshine Coast record of white pelican. Good for you Vince!  

To report your sightings or questions contact or 885-5539.  

Good Birding.