Tuesday, March 11, 2008

American White Pelicans!

American White Pelican. Photo from Wikipedia.

" You have to love the pelican. His mouth can hold more than his belly can."

This was a rhyme my Dad would recite from time to time when I was a child. It always made me laugh and I always think of it when I see a pelican. And if you want, you don't have to go all the way to Florida to see one. We have three that are hanging around Indy at Eagle Creek Park! They are usually found down behind the old nature center, which will soon be the new Ornithology Center this coming summer!

The American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos , is an amazing bird. It has a huge pouch that is flexible and is used to catch fish. The pelican tips their bill into the water and scoops up water and fish with the distensible pouch. The pouch can hold about three gallons of water. They will then tilt their head to empty out the water and swallow the fish. Sometimes gulls will snatch the fish from the pelican before it gets a chance to swallow them. The picture below shows a pelican from a zoo (not sure of exact species) displaying the inside of the pouch.

Would you like a big kiss? Mmmm fish breath! Photo from Wikipedia.

Their hunting style is fascinating. They will get together in a group, usually four or more, then swim side by side, moving in a semicircle toward the shore. Then, with much commotion, they flap their wings drive fish ahead of them into the shallows near the shore. Once the fish are in shallow water, it is easy for the pelicans to scoop them up in their bills.
So if you have a chance go out to Eagle Creek Park and take a look at these amazing birds!

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