Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Brown Pelicans

Watching Ice Age for the first time last night (I know we are behind in the Ice Age saga - cannot wait to see the meltdown and the dinosaurs), got me thinking about strange, but beautiful, animals that we have encountered recently. I count the brown pelican in that group, and the sea lion.

Adult brown pelican and Heermann's gull, San Francisco Bay

Back in September as we traveled from Seattle to San Francisco, we spent time along the coast, watching the antics of sea lions, gulls, and pelicans. See posts beginning in mid September.

Sea lions on Pier 39, San Francisco

Western gull atop car roof, waiting for discarded fried clams
or just watching the tourists, San Francisco

And now back to the pelicans.
The brown pelican is a big bird -- 3 to 4 feet tall,
with a wingspan of more than 7 feet.
And that pouch.......which can hold 3 gallons of water and fish....

.....attached to that bill.
To say that a pelican has a big bill is quite an under-statement.

Juvenile brown pelican, Monterey Bay

We watched adult brown pelicans fish by plunging head first into the water. After a big splash they bob up wiggling their bill and expanded pouch as they swallow the catch. If a gull is nearby, such as the Heermann's, the pelican does some gyrations to prevent the gull from stealing the fish. The adults were working hard for their meal.

Meanwhile the juveniles were hanging out at the fisherman's wharf, waiting for an easy meal. No flying and diving and getting harassed by gulls. They hung around outside, while fisherman cleaned the fish, and presumably threw them some scraps.

Or they hang out at the public fishing pier,
waiting for stray bait.

These pelicans are so common and so tame
that the locals ignore them.
Who would have thought that this population
is still on the Federal endangered species list.
[UPDATE: the brown pelican was just removed,
today from the Endangered Species list - a success story!]

This one I am sure is saying:
"Why are you looking at my feet...
I know they are webbed and turned inward.
That is so when I am ready to breed
I can use these webbed feet to incubate the eggs.
We all do it."

What to do with this long bill,
but hang my head. What a bird.

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