Everyone’s sick of the standing water that’s lingered for months, turning farm fields into lakes in western Iowa along parts of Interstates 29 and 680.
Everyone, that is, except the pelicans.
Large groups of American white pelicans can be seen congregating in Missouri River floodwaters along the highways, where they’re drawn to the shallow waters with an abundance of fish.
Yes, there are pelicans in the Midwest.
While brown pelicans stick to the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines, American white pelicans breed mainly in the Dakotas, Minnesota and southern Canada. They pass through Iowa and Nebraska as part of fall and spring migration , typically to and from the Gulf of Mexico. Not content to let sandhill cranes get all the glory, boosters in Harlan County, Nebraska, have held pelican watches in recent years.
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It’s not unusual to see white pelicans at DeSoto and Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuges, but this year they’re flocking more to flooded fields outside the refuge where fish may be trapped. Thursday, they were near Honey Creek, Iowa. A Facebook post from the refuges said the birds often team up to corral their prey into shallow water.
“It’s more or less easy pickings,” said Peter Rea, the supervisory park ranger at DeSoto and Boyer Chute. “They have been sticking around and taking advantage of it.”
Visitors to DeSoto have commented on how the pelicans seem more visible this year. The birds may be staying in place a bit longer, too, to avoid battling winds blowing up from the south.
“It’s neat to see that many of them,” Rea said.
The white-and-black birds have a wingspan that can reach 9 feet, and they usually stick to marshes, wetlands, lakes and reservoirs. They scoop and dip for fish with their large bills and distinctive pouches. (It’s brown pelicans that dive-bomb into the water at impressive speeds.) Each bird eats more than 4 pounds of food a day.
Pelicans usually migrate through this area from late August to early October, so don’t miss your chance for some prime bird watching. Great blue herons, typically solitary birds, have also been grouping up to feed in the floodwaters along I-29.
As Missouri River levels rise, especially after heavy rain Thursday morning, conditions may not continue to be ideal for the birds, who prefer shallow over deep water, said Joel Jorgensen, the nongame bird program manager at the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission.
“They’re probably not too happy with all that water coming up,” he said.
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Debris indicates the high-water mark left by March flooding in the 55th Wing on artwork inside the 55th Wing headquarters building at Offutt Air Force Base.
Building D, the historic World War II-era Martin Bomber Plant at Offutt Air Force Base. Hundreds of base workers displaced when their buildings flooded in March are now working here.
The building that once housed the 55th Intelligence Support Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base.
Tennant Hall, the former headquarters of the 97th Intelligence Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base, is one of the flood-damaged buildings that is being repaired.
Repair work has already started on Tennant Hall, which will cost $11 million.
Invading animals have eaten the candy left in the 55th Wing chaplain's office.
A set of flood-damaged slides sits on the floor of an office inside the 55th Wing headquarters building, which was destroyed by flooding in March. The Wing will spend about $9.5 million to turn the old StratCom building into its new headquarters.
Lt. Col. Chris Conover puts on a mask to protect himself from mold during a tour of the 55th Wing headquarters building at Offutt Air Force Base. Conover’s office was in that building. “The black mold just took over,” he said. “It’s hard. Devastating.”
Shattered glass and other debris litters the entryway of the 55th Security Forces Squadron headquarters building. The building was destroyed by the March flood.
A broken portrait of chief of staff of the Air Force, Gen. David L. Goldfein, lies on the floor of the 55th Security Forces Squadron building, which was ruined in floods that swamped Offutt Air Force Base in March.
Flags and unit guidons are piled on a desk in the 55th Wing headquarters building at Offutt Air Force Base.
Lt. Col. Chris Conover looks through the flood-damaged office of the 55th Wing historian at Offutt Air Force Base. Conover is leading the flood recovery efforts at Offutt.
Toppled furniture is scattered around a room in the 55th Security Forces Squadron building at Offutt Air Force Base. The March floodwaters invaded buildings, lifted furniture off the ground, then receded, causing the furniture to fall to the ground in a mess.
A safe that once held classified information sits in a hallway in the 55th Wing headquarters building, which was destroyed by the March flood.
A stopped clock hangs on a mold-covered wall inside the 55th Wing headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base. The building has been abandoned and will be demolished after floods last March filled it with water 5 feet deep.
A fallen insignia on the floor of the entryway of the 55th Security Forces Squadron headquarters building. Videmus means "I Observe."