By Brent E. Frazier, mayor
City of Pelican Rapids 

The American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) is a large aquatic bird from the order Pelecaniformes. The American white pelican reproduces in North America and migrates thousands of miles to as far away as South America.

The wingspan of this bird is second largest to only the California condor. Such a wingspan allows the American white pelican to fly easily by soaring movements.

The plumage of the American white pelican is almost all bright white, which covers its’ body weight which ranges from 7.7 to 30 pounds.

A recent Reuters news article from December 2022, entitled “These Spaces Were Lost,” tells the story of the changing environment of a lake in the State Park of Mexico City, Mexico.

The name of the lake is Bosque de San Juan de Aragon. For several years much effort has been finalized by the city, scientists, and environmentalists to revive the environment of this lake by creating nearby wetlands. 

The revived wetland spaces had been previously lost over the timespan of many years and are now beginning to be revitalized by the presence of an influx of migratory birds, of which many are the American white pelican. These wetlands have become a success story for Mexico City as well as Canada and the United States.

These migratory birds, such as the American white pelican, live in Canada and the United States during the late spring, summer, and early autumn seasons and then leave the northland in the autumn season, to escape the cold and brutal elements of nature, to live in sunny Mexico and beyond.

On a local level, a Dam Removal/River Restoration Project began in Pelican Rapids recently and is expected to conclude in October 2023. We will then witness a beautiful rock rapids where fish and other aquatic species can migrate upstream, and water enthusiasts can indulge in water-related activities. 

One of the final views of Pelican Pete on the north side of the Pelican River. He will be moved to the other side of the river.

During the second week of this project, our own “Pelican Pete” became somewhat concerned with the swinging arms and buckets of the backhoes, the jackhammering of concrete, and the talk of the windmill building being toppled to the ground in the near future. 

All of this commotion was just too much for one bird to endure, so he thought that he would take flight to the sky and return in the future when his surroundings were less chaotic. So then, on January 04, 2023, he lifted off from his concrete pad and took that flight.

But instead of flying to Mexico City or South America, he changed his mind and decided to land just a couple of blocks away where he would be much safer and still be able to overlook the Dam Removal/River Restoration Project during its construction.

He thought that he had already weathered 65 winters in Pelican Rapids, so why make a change of plans at this time in life?

At his present location, he will seek experienced people to pedicure his feet, polish his beak and preen his feathers. This make-over will give him the appearance of the hatchling he was back in 1957.

When he decides to return to the south side of the rock rapids, he will then have a different “birds eye” view of happenings in downtown Pelican Rapids.

Our Pelican Pete has many memories which we are sure he would share with us if he could only talk. 

Pelican Pete under construction; 1956 or early 1957.

He would tell of his creation at a blacksmith shop on 2nd Street N. W. and the flight from that location to a low-hanging cement perch that overlooks a waterfall on the Pelican River. This waterfall gave him a refreshing mist on a hot summer’s day and the pelting of ice particles during the winter months.

He would tell of the visitors who wanted a photo-op with him on their vacation in our lakes area and the summer day in 1982 when he celebrated his 25th birthday and was finally given an official name.

He would tell of the thousands of fisherpersons who took some of his lunch from the Pelican River to only leave a few angleworms and dead minnows at his feet.

Yes, our Pelecanus erythrorhynchos will make a return flight in a few months, to observe many more happenings on the Pelican River in the years to come, where his importance has grown in numerous proportions.

How important, you may ask? Well, we have already named a lake (Pelican Lake), a river (Pelican River), and a city (Pelican Rapids) in honor of his heritage.