Two days ago while on the auto tour loop at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge an American White Pelican caught my eyes because of its unusually dark crown, nape and neck plumage so I just had to photograph it. I have never seen such an extreme variation of supplemental plumage in an American White Pelican and might never again.
There is some expected variation in the Supplemental Plumage of American White Pelicans in the amount of dark feathers on the crown and nape. The pelican above shows a more “normal” Supplemental (summer) Plumage. Note the sparsity of the dark feathers on the crown compared to the pelican I photographed two days ago.
The nearly black feathers of the unusual pelican I photographed two days ago extend way down its neck and it also covers a large portion of the back of the pelican’s head. I also noticed that the iris of this bird is very dark as well.
After coming home and looking at the images I took of this pelican I searched the internet and couldn’t find another image that showed this much of a variation in this plumage phase in American White Pelicans. Images may be out there, I just could not find them. I also don’t know what would cause an extreme variation like this.
I had to laugh though because it looks like this pelican has been hanging out with Western and Clark’s Grebes at the refuge for too long because they also sport the dark stripe running from their crowns down the backs of their necks.
I never know what I will see when I am out in the field with birds.
Life is good.