Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How Many Pelicans Can Sit On A Log?

Most people assume that all Pelicans live near the ocean, and, in fact, Brown Pelicans do. But the American Pelican is white, breeds on lakes throughout the northern Great Plains and mountain West, and is one of the largest birds in North America. It winters along the coasts, but breeds only inland. By October, they flock up to descend the Mississippi flyway towards the Gulf Coast to spend the winter. Reel Foot Lake is an attractive stop over point to rest and feed. All those old cypress stumps make perfect perches. And the occasional underwater log can provide perching spots for many Pelicans at a time.

Pelicans are enormous birds, with a wingspan nearing 9.5 feet, and weighing up to 20 pounds. While enjoying their wing display, I wondered why so many white birds have black wing tips. Think about it...American Pelicans, Snow Geese, Wood Storks, White Ibis, many different gulls and terns. Google to the rescue again. Apparently the melanin in black feathers makes them stronger than white feathers without melanin. It's important to have strong flight feathers when you travel as far as these birds do in migration every year.

They are graceful fliers, but getting that large body up into the air takes a lot of effort, much of it quite comical! Those big feet come in handy for a running start!


Their feeding behavior is different than expected too. They don't dive down into the water after fish, but swim on the surface, herding their prey into a small area to be scooped up by those long bills. Several pelicans may fish cooperatively, moving into a circle to concentrate fish, and then dipping their heads under simultaneously to catch fish. It looks like a Pelican ballet!

No comments: