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Out-of-state pelican makes Avondale lake their new home

A white pelican believed to be from Idaho has taken up residence in the Valley -- one of many that have begun to make Arizona their new winter destination.
Credit: Paul and Karen Colella

AVONDALE, Ariz. — An Avondale community has a special type of "snowbird" moving into the neighborhood this fall. 

A white pelican appears to have found a comfortable new habitat at Garden Lakes, a neighborhood near 107th Avenue and Indian School Road that's surrounded by a residential lake.  

Paul and Karen Colella spotted the bird Thursday evening and were stunned to see it among all the lake's mallards and geese. 

"When you wake up every day, you don't expect to see a pelican in your backyard," Paul said.

The couple started making phone calls and were told the pelican might have flown down from Utah to escape the cold weather. 

When they contacted authorities in Utah, the Colellas said they were surprised to hear a pelican would be hanging around the desert. 

"They were very shocked that this bird is here in our lake," Paul recalled. 

A banded number located on the pelican's wing suggests it may actually be from farther up north in Idaho. The Colellas said they're waiting to confirm with officials in Idaho to see if the bird's been cataloged in that state.

Pelicans migrating to central Arizona for the winter has become increasingly prevalent in recent years, according to Audubon Arizona. 

The state's mild temperatures and man-made water ecosystems are offering an alternative for pelicans that had been spending their winters elsewhere.

Arizona's community lakes and ponds have a hefty supply of fish for pelicans to eat, so the Valley has become an appealing pitstop for birds migrating down to Mexico or Southern California for the winter months. 

Tice Supplee, director of conservation for Audubon Arizona, said pelicans have been seen in the Tres Rios wetlands and on the Gillespie Dam across the Gila River.

The Colellas said their neighborhood pelican already looks content staying in Avondale for a while since they've already seen the bird scoop up some fish from out of the lake.

"I guess as long as it has some food, it's going to stay here," Paul said.

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