Look, up in the sky, it's a bird — not Superman — and a sight perhaps even more rare than that of the Kryptonian superhero native to Kansas, as the pelicans have returned to Harvey County East Park.
Fall brings the winged creatures south for migration and East Lake has become a favorite stop for the pelicans over the last several years.
"It's just a layover in their migration. They migrate to the southwest or to the southeast around this time and they like shallow water with fish," said Harvey County Parks Director Kass Miller. "It's not very common for us in this area. Just the fact that they're laying over and staying here is kind of unique."
Miller noted the conditions at East Lake are particularly inviting, given it is one of the larger bodies of water ( and "easy pickens" for fish) in the county, and the birds have been spotted there in three of the past four years. Traditionally, the birds also enjoy sandy/marshy areas for nesting — part of the reason they can be found living in Texas and Florida year-round.
Keeping with migratory patterns, the pelicans (usually the American White Pelican) can be spotted at East Lake in mid to late November, though there have been sightings as early as October. Once they've arrived, Miller also said they are pretty visible at all hours — floating out on the lake in groups during the day and feeding (corralling fish in groups and scooping them into the pouch below their bills) at night.
"They're all over wherever they can find a windbreak, essentially, and less human activity," Miller said. "They're not very friendly birds."
On top of being a rare sight at East Lake, Miller noted the pelicans also provide an inherent benefit to the ecosystem given their diet.
"They eat trash fish — carp and stuff that we don't necessarily want in the lake," Miller said. "They eat a lot of shad, a lot of the smaller carp, things like that, so it helps us control that a little bit."
Reactions upon seeing the pelicans at East Lake are often ones of shock at the sight of the birds — and, given their size (10 to 17 pounds, with a 9 foot wingspan), they're hard to miss. Miller noted with the infrequency of their visits on a year-to-year basis it is something he hopes piques the interest of local residents, and gives them another reason to come visit Harvey County East Park.