110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Lynn Bowen
posted Aug 12, 2014 - 10:10:31am
The large, gorgeous American white pelican is 62 inches long, with an incredible 108-inch wingspan. It weighs 16 pounds, and is among the largest flying birds in the world.
This bird isn’t totally white. While it’s flying, one can see that one-third of its broad wings are black. The wings from the back side of the body to the wingtips are black. The short legs, big webbed feet, and huge bill are yellow-orange.
The white pelican’s amazing bill/pouch is very expandable. After the bird catches food, the water drains out of the bill, but the prey is trapped inside and swallowed. In fact, that bill can hold up to 21 pints of water and fish! Unbelievable!
American white pelicans breed in the interior areas of North America and move as far south as Central America in the winter months. They are colonial nesters and monogamous for just one season.
Together, a pair build a large mound nest. The couple incubate their two to three eggs for 28-36 days. The eggs hatch in the order laid, and when food is scarce, the smaller, younger chicks may starve to death. The parents do their best to care for the chicks once they’ve hatched until they are independent. Large birds have large appetites!
American white pelicans catch their prey in two different fashions. One is to dip their beaks into the water to catch fish, and the other is a team effort with a group, perhaps 10 birds, forming a circle or a line near a school of fish and making the circle smaller and smaller or closer to shore, and then feeding upon the fish.
Each adult consumes 4 pounds of food daily. In contrast, brown pelicans plunge-dive to get their food or sometimes eat scraps from fishing boats.
So, if a person wonders if a white pelican is just like a brown pelican, only a different color, the answer is no – they’re just relatives. The browns are “only” 48 inches long, weigh “only” 8 pounds and gather their prey differently.
Until you’ve seen a white pelican, you don’t realize that the brown pelican is small. They are both fascinating to observe!
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at email@example.com.
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