American white pelicans are making a first fall appearance this week at Nelson Lake Marsh in Batavia.
The migratory birds, which began staying over a few weeks in the spring about eight years ago, have not been seen before at this time of year at Nelson Lake. The marsh is at the Dick Young Forest Preserve, on Nelson Lake Road south of Main Street.
The Kane County Forest Preserve District posted a Facebook message around 10 a.m. Wednesday saying one of its wildlife biologists had seen about 15 of the birds.
Bob Andrini, president of the Kane County Audubon Society, said it could be the birds were blown off course while heading south from Wisconsin to Mississippi. Normally they travel along major rivers, such as the Mississippi River, he said.
Why Nelson Lake Marsh?
"They saw a big body of water and landed," he said. "They like Nelson Lake because it's shallow enough to get fed."
These pelicans scoop up fish and other matter into their pouch by dunking their heads under water, unlike other pelicans, which kind of skim the water.
During their early spring migration north, the birds travel in large groups. As many as 152 at a time have been spotted then at Nelson Lake Marsh, Andrini said. But the southern migration is done after they breed, and the birds often travel on their own, Andrini said.
The birds can weigh up to 20 pounds and have wingspans up to 9 feet, according to a birding website maintained by Cornell University.