White pelicans arrived at Lake Shelbyville around early September and an expert said they'll probably leave in mid-November.

They have been stopping here for nearly 20 years, probably because a storm once blew them off course, according to Lee Mitchell, a natural resources specialist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Mitchell said the birds are migrating from the Dakotas down to the Gulf of Mexico.

The pelicans will go from North and South Dakota, over to Minnesota, down along the Mississippi and over toward Lake Shelbyville, Mitchell said. They will fly down through Tennessee, eventually through Alabama, and end up at the Gulf.

To catch their food source, the flock will get into really shallow water, form a half-circle, and start beating the water with their wings, Mitchell said. They make a ton of racket, herd the fish into shallow water and engorge themselves.

"They hunt cooperatively," he said.

These birds typically eat shad, a type of fish with a heavy population in Lake Shelbyville, according to Mitchell. It is a food source for many types of other birds, such as eagles and gulls.

"We'll pick them up usually around the first part of September, maybe even the end of August, and they'll stay through at least mid-November," he said. "So they're here quite a while."

In the spring, the birds will return.

"We'll pick them back up in usually April, maybe March if it's nice, but usually not that early," Mitchell said.

If the birds are not hunting, they are loafing around and building up the energy to continue migrating, he said.

Kennedy can be reached by phone at 217-774-2161 ext. 1 or by email at kennedy.nolen@shelbyvilledailyunion.com.

This Week's Circulars