PeliCANs CAN Do A Lot Of Amazing Things
That’s why they’re called pelicans, not pelican’ts. They are just the coolest! Here’s why:
- They are super amazing hunters! When they spy their potential prey from the sky they catch it by folding in their wings and diving toward it with impressive accuracy.
- When hunting they can swallow up to 3 gallons of water and their prey, all in their elastic-throat-pouches. But before swallowing lunch, they push out the excess water and move the food around until the prey faces downward. Then they swallow it whole. Yum! They eat about 4 pounds of catch per day.
- They love hunting fish, turtles, crustaceans, tadpoles, and babies! (just kidding about the babies part)
- When they are really, really hungry pelicans will even attack, drown and eat seagulls. *Sometimes, I think the seagulls deserve it.
- They have a wingspan of 10 feet! That’s huge! They can also weigh over 30 pounds. That’s a big bird. Luckily they have air sacs under their skin and in their bones keeping all 30 pounds of them pretty buoyant in the water. Their air sacs also cushion the impact of their body crashing into the water surface when diving to catch fish.
- They can fly to the height of 10,000 feet using warm wind currents, but they are never found more than 20 miles offshore. They like to stay close. So if you see a pelican while lost at sea, you know land is not terribly far away!
- Sometimes they hunt cooperatively in groups by splashing the surface of the water with their wings, scaring fish toward shallower water, where they scoop them up easily with their bills. Pretty clever.
Peli-CAN Get It On
- During mating season male pelicans develop lots of colorful feathers, which they then flaunt around knowing they look good. Some even have the ability to change the color of their pouch, neck, and bill. It’s all for the ladies.
- When two pelicans make it official, they actually remain monogamous! But they only share that bond when they’re around the nesting area; they are otherwise completely independent. And that commitment only lasts for a single season. After their chicks have left the nest for good the romance is over. But at least they keep it sweet for a little while for the chicks’ sake! Sounds like some couples I know.
- Males and females build their nests together and take turns incubating their 1-3 eggs for 30 days in March or April.
- Both parents care for and feed their chicks by regurgitating lots of fish and other lovely seafood for a full 10-12 weeks until they fledge. That’s a lot of fish vomit.
- Out of the three eggs, usually only one makes it to fledgling stage since the sibling competition among pelicans is super fierce. The biggest lil’ pelican will push the smaller ones out of the nest to keep all the parents attention and fish-vomit-lunches to itself. It seems cruel, but that’s the working reproductive model that 30 million years of evolution designed. I’m glad the sibling rivalry in my house wasn’t that extreme.
- The winning survivor pelican baby will reach sexual maturity in 2-5 years, when it will also find a temporary love match, build a nest, and vomit fish for its competitive babies. Nature is sweet.
Peli-CAN Live and Thrive
- Like I mentioned above, they’ve been around for 30 million years. That’s 26 million years before even our earliest ancestors started walking the earth! Over that time pelicans have evolved into 8 distinct species.
- They can happily live in the wild for 10-30 years.
- They are found on every continent except for Antarctica. They have so far said nope to that frigid piece of earth.
- Their throat pouches double as as a cooling device when they swing it back and forth. It makes for living in the tropics not a bad option when you come equipped with a natural air conditioner.
And Just So You Know
- Pelicans are associated with death and the afterlife in Ancient Egypt.
- And they are non-kosher, un-clean animals, forbidden to be eaten under Jewish Dietary Law. Just in case you were wondering!