It has an overall length of about 50 to 67 inches, courtesy of the huge beak which measures 11.3 to 15.2 inches in males and 10.3 to 14.2 inches in females. It has a wingspan of about 95 to 120 inches. Body weight can range between 9.2 and 30 lbs. The plumage is almost entirely bright white, except the black primary and secondary remiges, which are hardly visible except in flight. From early spring until after breeding has finished in mid-late summer, the breast feathers have a yellowish hue. After moulting into the eclipse plumage, the upper head often has a grey hue, as blackish feathers grow between the small wispy white crest. The bill is long and flat, with a large throat sac, and in the breeding season vivid orange like the iris, the bare skin around the eye, and the feet. In the breeding season, there is a laterally flattened horn on the upper bill, about one-third the bill's length behind the tip. The horn is shed after the birds have mated and laid their eggs. Outside of the breeding season the bare parts become duller in color, with the naked facial skin yellow and the bill, pouch, and feet an orangy-flesh color. Apart from the difference in size, males and females look exactly alike. Immature birds have light grey plumage with darker brownish nape and remiges. Their bare parts are dull grey. Chicks are naked at first, then grow white down feathers all over, before moulting to the immature plumage.
Nests in colonies of several hundred pairs on islands in remote brackish and freshwater lakes of inland North America.
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