Date of this Version
Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge currently supports the largest breeding colony of the American White Pelican ( Pelecanus erythrorhynchos ) in North America. The first written account of the colony’s status was in 1905, when approximately 500 pelicans nested on two islands in Chase Lake. The colony grew to nearly 34,000 breeding birds by 2002. Surveys of breeding pelicans in the colony were sporadic from 1905 until 1972. Because the availability of foraging areas affects recruitment, pond counts from south-central North Dakota were used as an index of the relative availability of foraging areas. Pond counts varied widely in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1993, pond numbers increased dramatically, reached a peak in 1997, then declined but remained relatively high through 2002. Pelican numbers also increased in the mid- to late-1990s, possibly in response to increased and stable foraging opportunities. Because rising water in Chase Lake inundated the original nesting islands during that period, pelicans were forced to relocate nesting areas. Relocation provided more nesting space than the original islands, and nesting pelicans seemed to be gradually filling these areas. Threats to the Chase Lake breeding colony include disease, predation, and human disturbance. Research is needed to better understand the mechanisms that underlie the dynamics of AWPE metapopulations and their sub-units, including factors that influence nest-site selection, productivity, and survival of adults and young in large colonies.