In their natural habitat, they’re endangered. In West Vancouver, they’re almost unheard of.
An Eagle Harbour woman recently snapped photos and video of five rare American white pelicans flying overhead, an inland species that prefers lakes over coastal waters.
It was Madelynn Kalyk’s two-year-old son Westley who first alerted her to the decidedly non-native species on May 12.
“He was pointing to the sky and I was like, oh, that is so bizarre. I’ve never seen birds like that,” she said. “I ran upstairs to get my DSLR [camera] and of course, the battery was dead.”
Instead, Kalyk used her phone to grab a few shots, which she shared with birder friends who believed they were indeed American White Pelicans.
She submitted her sighting to Cornell Lab of Ornithology, whose staff were skeptical at first but it’s since been confirmed. There was another confirmed sighting of five white pelicans in Tsawwassen the day before, and numerous more since at the Reifel Bird Sanctuary in Delta.
They are a red-listed species in B.C. Their only known nesting colony in the province is around Stum Lake, west of Williams Lake.
Kalyk said she hopes the appearance of the pelicans can serve as a reminder of their precarious position and inspire those on terra firma to protect their habitat.
Kalyk said she was struck by the mechanics of how the rare birds flapped their wings.
“They're robotic. Just the way that they fly is so crazy,” she said.
Kalyk is something of an amateur bird watcher, and the pelicans will go down as the first rare bird she’s spotted.
“I just kind of like a birds. Who doesn’t?” she said with a laugh.