Pelicans

Pelicans
 
 
 

 

A pelican, derived from the Greek word pelekys (meaning “ax” and applied to birds that cut wood with their bills or beaks), is a water bird with a large throat pouch, belonging to the bird family Pelecanidae. Along with the darters, cormorants, gannets, boobies, frigatebirds and tropicbirds, pelicans make up the order Pelecaniformes. Modern pelicans, of which there are eight species, are found on all continents except Antarctica. They primarily inhabit warm regions, though breeding ranges reach 45° south (Australian Pelican, P. conspicillatus) and 60° North (American White Pelicans, P. erythrorhynchos, in western Canada). Birds of inland and coastal waters, they are absent from polar regions, the deep ocean, oceanic islands and inland South America.

 

 

Pelicans are large birds with large pouched bills. The smallest is the Brown Pelican (P. occidentalis), as little as six pounds, forty two inches long and can have a wingspan of as little as six feet. The largest is believed to be the Dalmatian Pelican (P. crispus), at up to thirty three pounds, seventy two inches long, with a maximum wingspan of nearly ten feet. The Australian Pelican has the longest bill of any bird.

 

 

Pelicans swim well with their short, strong legs and their feet with all four toes webbed (as in all birds placed in the order Pelecaniformes). The tail is short and square, with twenty to twenty four feathers. The wings are long and have the unusually large number of thirty to thirty five secondary flight feathers. A layer of special fibers deep in the breast muscles can hold the wings rigidly horizontal for gliding and soaring. Thus they can exploit thermals to commute over a hundred to feeding areas. Pelicans rub the backs of their heads on their preen glands to pick up its oily secretion, which they transfer to their plumage to waterproof it.

 

   

 

                                                                                                                               Australian and Dalmatian

 

 
 

                                                                                                                                Great White and Pink-backed

 

 
 

                                                                                                                                       Peruvian and Brown.

 

Sub-groups: I borrowed all the species types except the brown but hope one day to make all their acquaintances. The pelicans can be divided into two groups: those with mostly white adult plumage, which nest on the ground (Australian, Dalmatian, Great White and American White Pelican), and those with gray or brown plumage, which nest in trees (Pink-backed, Spot-billed and Brown, plus the Peruvian Pelican, which nests on sea rocks). The Peruvian Pelican is sometimes considered conspecific with the Brown Pelican.

 

 

The diet of a Pelican usually consists of fish, but they also eat amphibians, crustaceans and on some occasions, smaller birds. They often catch fish by expanding the throat pouch. Then they must drain the pouch above the surface before they can swallow. This operation takes up to a minute, during which time other seabirds are particularly likely to steal the fish. Pelicans in their turn sometimes pirate prey from other seabirds. The white pelicans often fish in groups. They will form a line to chase schools of small fish into shallow water, and then scoop them up. Large fish are caught with the bill-tip, then tossed up in the air to be caught and slid into the gullet head first. The Brown Pelican of North America, the one we see each and every day, usually plunge-dives for its food. Rarely, other species such as the Peruvian Pelican and the Australian Pelican practice this method.

 

 

Reproduction: Pelicans are gregarious and nest colonially. The ground-nesting (white) species have a complex communal courtship involving a group of males chasing a single female in the air, on land, or in the water while pointing, gaping and thrusting their bills at each other. They can finish the process in a day. The tree-nesting species have a simpler process in which perched males advertise for females.

 

 

In all species copulation begins shortly after pairing and continues for three to ten days before egg-laying. The male brings the nesting material, ground-nesters (which may not build a nest) sometimes in the pouch and tree-nesters crosswise in the bill. The female then heaps the material up to form a simple structure. Both sexes incubate with the eggs on top of or below the feet. They may display when changing shifts. All species lay at least two eggs, and hatching success for undisturbed pairs can be as high as 95%, but because of competition between siblings or outright siblicide, usually all but one nestling dies within the first few weeks (or later in the Pink-backed and Spot-billed species). The young are fed copiously. Before or especially after being fed, they may seem to have a seizure that ends in falling unconscious; the reason is not clearly known.

 

 

 

Handsome boy

 

 

Parents of ground-nesting species have another strange behavior: they sometimes drag older young around roughly by the head before feeding them. The young of these species gather in "pods" or "crèches" of up to 100 birds in which parents recognize and feed only their own offspring. By six to eight weeks they wander around, occasionally swimming, and may practice communal feeding. Young of all species fledge ten to twelve weeks after hatching. They may remain with their parents afterwards, but are now seldom or never fed. Overall breeding success is highly inconsistent. Pairs are monogamous for a single season, but the pair bond extends only to the nesting area; mates are independent away from the nest. However, some reference sources suggest they mate for life.

 

 

and this seasons gal or wife for life ???

Populations: The Dalmatian Pelican is the rarest, numbers are estimated between ten and twenty thousand. The Spot-billed Pelican estimated at thirteen to eighteen thousand. The most common is believed to be the Australian Pelican, with a population generally estimated at around four hundred thousand individuals. The White Pelican is more consistently estimated at two hundred and seventy to two hundred and ninety thousand individuals. Our chums the brown pelican may be even more numerous with estimates of six hundred and fifty thousand so it has been removed from the endangered species list.

 

 

From the fossil record it is known that pelicans have been around for over thirty million years, the earliest fossil Pelecanus being found in Oligocene deposits in France. A prehistoric genus has been named Miopelecanus, while Protopelicanus may be a pelicanid or pelecaniform – or a similar aquatic bird such as a pseudotooth bird (Pelagornithidae). The supposed Miocene pelican Liptornis from Argentina is anomen dubium, being based on hitherto indeterminable fragments.

 

 
 

                                                                                                Pelican House Dublin and an advert for Finding Nemo featuring Nigel.

 

Symbolism: In medieval Europe, the pelican was thought to be particularly attentive to her young, to the point of providing her own blood when no other food was available. As a result, the pelican became a symbol of the Passion of Jesus and of the Eucharist. It also became a symbol in bestiaries for self-sacrifice, and was used in heraldry ("a pelican in her piety" or "a pelican vulning (wounding) herself"). Another version of this is that the pelican used to kill its young and then resurrect them with its blood, this being analogous to the sacrifice of Jesus. Thus the symbol of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) used to be a pelican, and for most of its existence the headquarters of the service was located at Pelican House in Dublin, Ireland. The emblems of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and Corpus Christi, Oxford are pelicans, showing its use as a medieval Christian symbol ('Corpus Christi' meaning 'body of Christ'). Likewise a folktale from India says that a pelican killed her young by rough treatment but was then so contrite that she resurrected them with her own blood.

 

   
 

These legends may have arisen because pelicans look as if they are stabbing themselves as they often press their bill into their chest to fully empty their pouch. Other possibilities are that they often rest their bills on their breasts, and that the Dalmatian Pelican has a blood-red pouch in the early breeding season.

 

 
 

The Brown pelican is the Louisiana state bird, is used today on the Louisiana State Flag and State Seal, is featured prominently on the seal of the State University and by the State Police. A pelican logo is used by the Portuguese bank Montepio Geral. The pelican has also been the subject of a poem by John Bennet and subsequent song - The Pelican - by Richard Proulx, composed in 1995. The song was dedicated to the Cathedral Choir of the Cathedral of the Madeline, Salt Lake City, Utah. In the 2003 Pixar animated film Finding Nemo, a Brown Pelican named Nigel helps Marlin find his son. In the Halo series, the UNSC uses a drop ship named the Pelican. The Moche people of ancient Peru worshipped nature. They placed emphasis on animals and often depicted pelicans in their art. A pelican is depicted on the reverse of the Albanian 1 lek coin, issued in 1996. Several news magazines such as Time and the Economist, and environmental groups, have used the oil-drenched pelican as a symbol of the environmental impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

 

     
 

Exceptional behaviors: On the 25th of October 2006, a pelican swallowed a living pigeon in St. James Park, London. According to tourists watching it, the pelican walked to the pigeon and grabbed it in its beak, hence starting the twenty minute struggle which ended when the victim was swallowed "head first down while flapping all the way down". This behaviour has been filmed on separate occasions in Saint James Park and also in a zoo in Ukraine.

 

 
What the locals call Pelican Island, Tobago near Nylon Pool
 
 

 

On the 11th of May 2008, Debbie Shoemaker needed 20 stitches after a pelican rammed into her face and died, believed to be diving for fish in the sea off Florida.

 

 

In the Zoo Basel, a Great White Pelican named Killer Jonny hunts and eats any duck (or other smaller bird) that enters the pelican exhibit. Today, there are rarely any ducks on the pelican lake, while on all other bodies of water they are seen in normal numbers.

 

 

On the island of Malgas in South Africa, the biologist Marta de Ponte was the first to discover Great White Pelicans eating Cape Gannet chicks. The pelicans were then captured on film exhibiting this behaviour in the BBC documentary Life. The same breed of pelican has been observed swallowing Cape cormorants, kelp gulls, swift terns and African penguins.

 

 

                                                                                                    Bear - my favourite picture because it looks like they are whistling.

 

ALL IN ALL WE LOVE THESE CLUMSY CREATURES

                      THE MOST BIZARRE, STRANGE LOOKING BIRDS – LOOK RATHER LIKE CONCORD IN FLIGHT