White Pelicans

CarolM

San Bernardino, United States

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Canon D40 – Dry brush filer added -photographed at Salton Sea, in Southern California.

Adult white pelicans, are one of the largest birds standing about 4 feet tall and weighing 16 pounds with an impressive 9-foot wing span.

They fish in groups by floating atop the water. White pelicans are more buoyant than Brown Pelicans and do not dive for their food. They use their feet and wings to corral fish and then simply dip their heads below the surface to scoop up the fish and water into their elastic pouch and then hold their bills vertically to drain out the water before swallowing the food.

Pelicans nest in colonies. Their preferred nesting habitats are islands, especially those associated with fresh water lakes. The breeding range extends from the prairies of Canada into the mountain states, to the Gulf Coast of Texas and Mexico.

Birds that are mature enough to reproduce will develop “nuptial tubercles,” or large ridges on top of their bills, and ornamental plumes atop their head. Once chick feeding begins, the ridges fall off and the birds develop black feathers on the back of the head. Their eye color also changes from dark to light as their breeding status changes.

Pelicans lay an average of two eggs and incubate them using their feet since they don’t have the typical “brood patch” of bare skin on the belly. White pelican chicks hatch helpless, with homely, orange skin. They eat by digging digested food out of the adult’s pouch. As chicks mature, they join a “pod” or “gang” and feed in large groups until they are ready to fly at about 10 weeks.

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  • SherriOfPalmSprings Sherri Nicholas-
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