Gunnison Island, in the north arm of Great Salt Lake, is home to one of the largest North American breeding colonies of American White Pelicans. In 2017, Great Salt Lake Institute students began helping the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources with research on these charismatic birds.The first phase of the project was to install a PELIcam on Gunnison Island to help observe pelican behavior during the breeding season.

Great Salt Lake Institute Logo

PELIcam is the Project in Education and Longitudinal Investigation of American White Pelicans on Gunnison Island.

Latest PELIcam Image

The PELIcam, installed in early March of 2017, was established to monitor pelican colonies on Gunnison Island. The camera takes a picture every five minutes, and the most recent image can be seen here.

About the PELI Project

Great Salt Lake PELI Project (Partnership for Education and Longitudinal Investigation of American White Pelicans) aims to understand the effects of water diversion and climate change and on the birds’ migration patterns, breeding behavior and survival rates on Gunnison Island. We will work in partnership with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and their already robust pelican research program that involves tagging young pelicans with leg bands and green wing tags for easy sighting.

Help look for pelicans with Green wing tags!

When see pelicans with wing tags, please report the following information to or email

  • Date
  • Location
  • Tag color and code (Please insert a picture of the green tags here)

You may see pelicans with various types of tags, which indicate where the pelicans were originally banded. Pelicans from Gunnison Island will have a green tag with a white alpha-numeric code.  Pelicans with red or black tags are from the Minidoka National Wildlife Reserve or Blackfoot Reservoir, respectively.

  • Take a picture of the pelican too and send it with your report! Citizen re-sightings are critical to the PELI Project and help determine the status and migration patterns of the American White Pelican population.

Recent Timelapse

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources also keeps track of pelican migration through a unique program called “Peli-track.” Through the program, pelicans are outfitted with small backpacks which transmit the pelican’s location every couple days. Discover where in the world the pelicans are!

Future Plans

In the summer, GSLI will assist the UDWR in banding pre-fledgling pelicans so that they can be monitored over time. While banding the pelicans, GSLI will collect valuable information like weight and beak length from the pelicans.

The future plans for the PELI project are:

  • Increase citizen reportings of pelicans with green wing tags
  • Band pre-fledgling pelicans so that they can be monitored over time

Great Salt Lake pelicans in the news

Standard Examiner article
Salt Lake Tribune article

Partner Organizations

This project would not have been possible without the following community partners that have contributed considerable resources and time to making the project happen.

Utah DNR LogoThe Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, or the UDWR, has been researching American White pelicans on the Great Salt Lake for over 20 years. In early March 2017, Great Salt Lake Institute assisted the UDWR in sweeping Gunnsion Island for pelican tags and installing the “PELI-cam,” along with many other cameras.

Great Salt Lake Ecosystem Program LogoGreat Salt Lake Ecosystem Program: The Great Salt Lake Ecosystem Program, or GSLEP, monitors avian and aquatic life on the Great Salt Lake. By studying these populations over time, researchers can learn about wildlife population patterns. The GSLEP has been monitoring pelicans for over 20 years, and recently the GSLI assisted GSLEP in collecting pelican tags on Gunnison Island and installing cameras to monitor the pelicans.

MesoWest LogoMesoWest, located at the University of Utah, collects data from weather stations located across the country.  The MesoWest group also has several weather stations deployed around the Great Salt Lake, including one on Gunnison Island.  Live data for that weather station can be seen here.

Tracy Aviary LogoTracy Aviary is a Salt Lake City based aviary which houses many local and exotic species of birds. The aviary promotes education and conservation through several research grants. Great Salt Lake Institute received a research grant through Tracy Aviary, which was instrumental in helping Great Salt Lake Institute purchase cameras and conduct research on Gunnison Island.