MCLENNAN COUNTY (February 8, 2013)—Norman Manning, a McLennan County Road and Bridge Department employee, was replacing a missing road sign Friday just outside of Waco when he heard noises coming from the brush behind him that he at first thought were coming from a dog.
But what he found when he went to investigate was a big bird that was trying to flap its wings in a dense thicket near the intersection of Boys Ranch Road and Old Mexia Road.
Fearing that the bird was trapped, he called the dispatch office, which in turn contacted the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
About an hour later parks and wildlife workers arrived and managed to capture the American white pelican, one of the largest native birds in the U.S., which can have a wingspan of as much as 120 inches, can weigh as much as 30 pounds and can have a length of as much as 70 inches thanks in part to its huge beak.
The bird did not appear to be injured, but the parks and wildlife workers planned to check it out before taking it to Lake Waco, where other pelicans have been spotted.
The American white pelican typically nests in colonies in remote brackish and freshwater lakes, the Texas Bird Breeding Atlas says.
They’ve been found as far north as the Northwest Territories and about 20 percent of them use an island in Great Salt Lake as a nesting ground, but isolated breeding populations have been identified in Texas, which may be home to the only non-migratory population in the U.S. the atlas says.
As many as 20 to 30 of the birds have been spotted in the Lake Waco area, according to one report.