The pelican is an amazing bird that can be found on all the continents except Antarctica. There are 8 known species of pelicans. Pelicans are threatened by chemical pollution, water pollution, and ecological disasters like oil spills. Bycatch is another cause of pelican decline; in that while diving for fish, pelicans sometimes end up caught in fishing nets and drown. It was once said, by Dixon Lanier Merritt: A wonderful bird is the pelican; His bill can hold more than his belican; He can take in his beak; Food enough for a week; But I’m damned if I see how the helican. Read more about these amazing critters below.
First the Stats…
Scientific name: Pelecanus
Weight: Up to 21 lbs.
Length: Up to 6.2 feet
Wingspan: Up to 12 feet
Lifespan: Up to 25 years
Now on to the Facts!
1.) Two species dive, from up to 60 feet, into the water in a tactic known as plunge-diving. They can spot fish from high up in the air and they then dive bomb the fish. The force of the impact stuns the fish, which are quickly scooped up in their pouch.
2.) Pelicans have been around for at least 30 million years!
3.) These birds have totipalmate feet (on each foot, there is webbing that connects all four toes).
4.) The large, skin pouch that hangs from a pelican’s bottom bill is called the gular pouch.
5.) Some pelicans gular pouch can hold up to 3 gallons of water!
But wait, there’s more on the pelican!
6.) Their flexible gular can expand and contract according to its needs and even the bottom jaw bone that holds the sac can bow outward.
7.) Once fish are caught, the pelican uses special muscles to contract and expel the water from its pouch, leaving only the fish; which are then swallowed whole.
Did you know…?
They prey on crustaceans, amphibians, turtles, and even other birds!
8.) The amazing pouch can be also used as a cooling device. During hot days, pelicans will swing their gular pouch to cool themselves off.
9.) Using thermals in the wind currents, pelicans can fly at heights of up to 10,000 feet!
10.) Pelicans are very social animals. They live in large colonies of up to several hundred birds.