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Pelicans taking flight from Gulf Coast to Minnesota

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Flocks of American white pelicans are heading back to Minnesota from the Gulf Coast, The Associated Press reports.

With wingspans of up to nine feet, American white pelicans are among the world's largest birds, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says. An estimated 22,000 pair of the species nest at 16 sites on seven lakes across the state.

According to the DNR, the bright white plumage with black-edged wings and large, orange bills distinguish American White Pelicans from any other species.

Minnesota is home to 22 percent of the American white pelicans' global population, the DNR says.

The National Audubon Society has a detailed history of the birds.

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Pollution from Gulf oil spill shows up on western Minnesota pelicans

Petroleum and the chemical used to clean up the 2010 Gulf oil leak have shown up in the eggs of pelicans that nest in western Minnesota. Swift County is home to North America's largest colony of American White Pelicans, which winter in the Gulf of Mexico. Biologists will monitor how the chicks hatched from polluted eggs develop.