WICHITA, Kan. — Thousands of pelicans have been spotted in a wildlife area in central Kansas.

The Wichita Eagle reports that about 9,000 pelicans were spotted Tuesday at the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area near Great Bend.

The birds are white with wingspans as large as 9-feet wide.

“White pelicans definitely have a “wow” factor because they’re so big, much bigger than a bald eagle,” said Mike Rader, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism wildlife education coordinator. “They have the biggest wingspan of any bird in Kansas.”

Though they waddle clumsily on land, they’re graceful in the water and the air.

Quivera, a federal wildlife refuge, is a popular location to watch pelicans fly.

“It’s something special to watch,” said Barry Jones, Quivira’s visitors service manager. “What amazes me is they don’t make hardly any sound. Except for a little wind noise on their wings you won’t even know they’re there unless you see a shadow.”

Robert Penner, the avian programs manager at the Nature Conservancy of Kansas, said the pelicans begin returning to the state from their northern breeding grounds in July and August. He believes the birds that have flown south this early may not have been able to nest successfully in the north.

Their numbers will increase as fall approaches. Cheyenne Bottoms set the state record several years ago for most American white pelicans in one place with 50,000, Penner said.

Max Thompson is a retired Southwestern College biology professor and ornithologist. He said the birds tend to nest further north and that there’s no documentation of pelican nesting in the state


Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com