Exploration of Factors that may lead to colony abandonment or reduced productivity of American White Pelicans (SWG T-7-R)

Authors and Contributors

Paulette Scherr USFWS; Marsha Sovada and Pam Pietz, NPWRC

Research Category

Target Species

American White Pelicans

Approximate Completion Date




SWG pelicans colony nest abandonment



The catastrophic abandonment of the Chase Lake colony raised concerns about the stability of colonies in the northern Great Plains and underscored the limits of our understanding of population dynamics and ecology in this colonial breeding bird. To address these shortcomings, we began a multi-faceted effort to gather ecological information about the colonies in South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana. Our goal is to advance our understanding of white pelican ecology and provide sound science on which to base future management decisions.


  1. Document nesting phenology and nesting behaviors,
  2. Determine nest-attendance schedules and quantify chick feeding rates,
  3. Estimate distances to foraging sites and determine attributes of those sites,
  4. Document timing and extent of egg and chick losses,
  5. Record evidence of colony disturbances, disease outbreaks, and severe weather events,
  6. Obtain fresh carcasses for necropsy if and when significant losses of chicks or adults occur, 7) Apply USGS bands on a sample of chicks.