American White Pelican

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.

Indeed, the Pelecanus americanus is a wonderful bird! John James Audubon gave this bird its scientific name. And in so doing, blessed it with these words in his book The Birds of America.

"I feel great pleasure, good reader, in assuring you, that our White Pelican, which has hitherto been considered the same as that found in Europe, is quite different. In consequence of this discovery, I have honoured it with the name of my beloved country, over the mighty streams of which, may this splendid bird wander free and unmolested to the most distant times, as it has already done from the misty ages of unknown antiquity. "

I sometimes fail to see the greatness of the bird species that I see often. So I have to remind myself that pelicans are some of the largest of the living birds. Some species of Pelicans have a wing span that reaches 10 feet. The pelican can also weigh up to 30 lbs. (source) How much fish does such a large bird have to eat every day to support itself? Up to 4 lbs. It also must feed its young an additional 150 lbs of fish during the 13 week period that it takes to raise them. That's a lot of fishing! (source)

The American Pelican uses their unique bill like a net to scoop up fish. It is estimated that their bill can hold up to 2 gallons of water- which they can quickly drain- leaving only their captured fish. The American Pelican grows a horn like appendage on the top of its bill during breeding season. It was this horn that helped Audubon declare it as a separate species from its European counterpart. (source)


The Giraffe Head Tree said...

How did I miss this, Daniel? You KNOW of my passion for the huge, white, amazingly beautiful birds! Lovely photos and prose. Makes me look forward to the winter bird migration again.