Just another shot of one of the wonderful creatures at the Melbourne Zoo.
“Oh, a wondrous bird is the pelican!
His bill holds more than his belican.
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week.
But I’m darned if I know how the helican.”
Dixon Lanier Merritt
The pelicans are indeed famous for their beaks, which they fill with huge gulps of water, strain out the liquid, and eat the remaining fish or squid.
And speaking of beaks, the Australian Pelican (left) is said to own the longest beak of any bird in the world. Pelicans are a very distinct group (all 8 species belong to a single genus), and there remains debate about which other birds are their closest relatives. Fossils of pelicans go back 40 million years so their feeding strategies have obviously been successful. However, two basic types of strategies are used: plunge-diving (used by the Brown Pelican of North America and its close relative along the western South American coast, the Peruvian Pelican Pelecanus thagus) and group fishing (used by the various white pelicans of the world). A group of American White Pelicans for example, will form a line to chase schools of small fish into the shallows, and then scoop them up liberally. Adults have the odd bill protuberances in the breeding season, while younger birds do not.