Sunday, February 16, 2014

Pelicans at Sanibel Island

These brown pelicans are at the inlet between Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Florida. Pelicans seemed to be everywhere in January. I even saw some white ones at Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve, but none close enough to get a good picture with my camera. In the top picture the 2 farthest away have yellow heads and white necks which indicate mature and/or breeding plumage. Breeding plumage also includes a strong reddish brown on the sides of the neck. Immatures are grey and brownish black. I have often admired pelicans flying in formation over the water, and often seen them dive straight into the water with a great splash in pursuit of  a meal. I had never seen them fish from a floating position before. They seem to be just resting on the water, but they have their eyes trained on the water. It amused me that their eyes moved around as they studied the water and they seemed to be bowing toward the water as I  do to get a better look at things. Suddenly they jab the head under water and come up streaming water from the beak After the water is mostly strained out, they raise their skinny necks revealing a large saggy pouch attachment, and swallow whatever juicy thing they caught. I am sure this is a much easier way to fish than slamming head first into the water from a fairly great height. I understand that the slam into the water stuns the fish, and might be more effective on a school of fish, whereas float fishing might be mainly for snacks.

My favorite poem (limerick) about  pelicans by Dixon Lanier Merritt:
A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican,
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week
But I'm damned if I see how the helican!

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