Most likely, there is no person on Earth who is unfamiliar with this bird.
It is so unusual that even a child would recognize a pelican in the pictures. He is the only representative of the family with the same name. Despite this, the pelican is spread on almost all continents.
This bird is very large and has some features – they allow you to distinguish it among others. Its varieties have small differences in size, shape, and color.
What makes a pelican unusual
This bird is different from other forms of the beak. It is very long and wide, exceeds the length of the head by about five times. No other bird on the planet has such a large and spacious beak. A distinctive feature of the pelican is the leathery bag at its base, which fits up to 15 liters of water. With its help, these birds catch fish. They can carry in it up to 4 kg of prey. In addition, this bag is thickly permeated with capillaries and is used for thermal regulation in the heat.
Despite its sluggishness and visible heavyweight, pelicans swim very well, fly very fast, and can soar. And the brown pelican can rush from a height into the water after the prey. In order to mitigate the effects of such diving, these birds have many airbags between their bones, and on their chest – a pillow of feathers. But the other species can not dive, but the layer of air between the feathers helps them to stay well in the water.
Another unusual type of these birds is the white pelican. It is also sometimes called the rhinoceros bird. After all, it has a small horn-like outgrowth in the middle of its supraclave. Its feathers are white, with black edges, so sometimes it is called black and white.
Another amazing feature of these birds is that they have no nostrils, they breathe right through their beak. Usually, pelicans are silent and rarely make any sound. But the sounds that can be heard are more like grunting, growling, or grumbling, not bird voices. If you see this unusual creature at least once, you will never forget what a bird pelican looks like.
Description and appearance of a pelican
This is one of the largest birds, reaching a length of almost two meters. Their wingspan is almost three meters and weighs up to 15 kilograms. On what signs can you recognize a pelican? So:
- the clumsy massive body;
- very large wings, with a span of more than three meters;
- short legs with an eardrum between the fingers;
- long curved neck; wide and large beak with a leathery bag at the bottom;
- loose plumage and an air layer under the skin, helping them to fly and swim.
Lifestyle of pelicans
Pelican is a water bird inhabiting near lakes, rivers, and seashores. They love shallow waters, quiet ponds, river mouths, and small lakes rich in fish. They do not walk very well, clumsily tumbling, but they fly and swim well. Because of the huge beak and long curved neck in flight pelicans are easily mistaken for prehistoric animals. They really belong to the oldest birds that lived on Earth more than 20 million years ago.
Pelicans eat fish and therefore spend a lot of time on the water, but they sleep and nest on land. They live in quite large colonies, whose size can reach up to 10 thousand birds. Despite their wild appearance, they are quite peaceful. Very rarely can be seen as fights that arise because of food or building material for the nest. Pelicans fight with their beak, hitting each other hard.
Most of them are in the southern parts of the planet, but there are pelicans on all continents except Antarctica. Living in the northern regions, the individuals belong to the migratory birds.
How pelicans fly
This heavy, massive bird can take off only from the run, noisily pounding its wings. But in flight, they do not look clumsy at all. They measuredly wave their wings, skillfully use the upward air currents and soar, can also spiral up high. In-flight, they can reach speeds up to 50 kilometers per hour. Pelicans keep their necks curved, throwing their heads on their backs so that the long beak does not outweigh. When they fly for a long distance, the birds are lined up with a wedge. The flock of these birds in flight is a very beautiful sight. Pelicans sit down on the water, braking with their paws and noisily smacking on it.
How pelicans hunt
This is a pack bird, so they also get food in groups. Pelicans hunt in different ways. Very often, a flock of birds walks in shallow waters, dropping their beaks in the water and scooping it with their “nets”. A fish is also caught there. To keep the slippery prey on the end of the beak, they have a hook. They also use the pelicans to catch a large fish.
Having scooped the water, the pelican raises his head and squeezes it out of the beak, swallowing all the caught fish. If a large fish is caught in the beak, the bird is first forced to plant it so that it turns around in flight with its head down. This is the only way he can swallow it. At this time, these clumsy birds sometimes steal their prey by fast seagulls.
To drive out the fish in shallow water, pelicans noisily clap their wings. Sometimes they become in two lines and drive the fish towards each other. Very interesting way of hunting a brown pelican. It rises high in the sky and dives with noise, hitting the water with its chest. This bird has a large cushion of feathers on its chest, so it does not hurt, but the fish from the strong rumble dies and floats to the surface, becoming easy prey for birds.
Most of these birds nest on trees or bushes, building large nests of twigs and other such debris. The builder is a female, and the male brings the material. Sometimes, several pairs build one big nest, which is a huge pile of branches, feathers, leaves, and litter. But large pelicans nest on the ground in thickets of grass or reed, and sometimes right on stones, using their feathers to build them.
The female lays only 2-3 eggs, which are yellowish or bluish in color. She lays them for a month. The chicks hatch naked and blind. Only after two weeks, they dress in fluff, and helpless stay for more than two months. All this time, parents feed the chick with half-digested fish right from their beak. It is interesting to observe from the side of the feeding process when the baby puts his head in the wide-open beak of an adult bird.
Attitude to this bird in different countries
Pelican is a bird so unusual that since ancient times many legends and myths have been written about it. Muslims considered the pelican a sacred bird that helped to build Mecca. The Turkic peoples politely called it ‘Baba Bird’. They also honored it in Europe. The way of feeding their own children was respected, and it became a symbol of the selfless love of their parents.