American White Pelicans and Recreational Boaters on Lakes of the North American Great Plains: Habitat Use Overlap

Carolyn A. Gaudet, Christopher M. Somers*
Department of Biology, University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, S4S 0A2, Canada

© 2014 Gaudet and Somers

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Biology, University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, S4S 0A2, Canada; Tel: (306)585-4850; E-mail:


Shoreline development and boating on lakes of the northern Great Plains of North America have increased due to recent economic prosperity. Few studies have examined the general characteristics of habitats used by foraging waterbirds and boats to determine levels of overlap. To address this issue, we conducted point count surveys of American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) and boats on two important recreational lakes in southern Saskatchewan, Canada. The majority of pelicans and boats detected used near-shore areas of the lakes, identifying the importance of shallow water habitats and providing evidence of significant overlap. The location of pelicans relative to the shore did not change in the presence of boats, and there was no significant relationship between boat numbers and pelican numbers. These analyses suggest that pelicans did not make major changes to their habitat use on the lakes as a result of boating activity. When pelicans and boats were present simultaneously at point count locations, pelicans appeared to avoid boats on one lake, but showed no detectable avoidance behavior on the other lake. The importance of interactions between recreational boating and foraging pelicans is currently unclear. Set-back distances to protect foraging pelicans from boating activity do not appear necessary based on our analyses.

Keywords: Habitat use, lake use, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos, recreational boating disturbance.