Saturday, December 17, 2011


I've always been very fond of Pelicans. They are such extraordinary-looking birds.

Many people prefer White Pelicans, partly because of their plumage but sometimes also because of the way they fish in groups, forming a circle or line on the water with their companions and then reaching down in unison into the water to scoop up their prey.

It's a while since I've had a chance to watch White Pelicans fishing, though, as the only ones I've seen recently are the ones I saw circling high overhead at San Jacinto Monument park last weekend.

I prefer Brown Pelicans. They may be almost prehistoric in appearance but even when they are not in breeding plumage, adults are quite beautiful.

Although they are much smaller than their white cousins, they still have an impressive wingspan.

I always enjoy watching lines of Brown Pelicans as they patrol the shoreline, making spectacular vertical dives into the water when they spot fish.

Oddly enough, the other day I watched several Brown Pelicans using a very different fishing technique. These birds were floating on shallow water. Every so often they would launch into flight but would fly for just a few yards, staying only feet above the water. Then they would splash down to grab their prey.

They would float with their bill held down for a couple of minutes, presumably to let water drain out. Then they would raise their head to swallow whatever it was they had caught.

BTW, the bird in the four photos above is a first-year bird, which is why it doesn't have any white on its head and neck.

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