"A wonderful bird is the pelican. His bill will hold more than his belican. He can take in his beak, Food enough for a week, But I'm damned if I can see how the helican." was written by Dixon Lanier Merritt
Pelicans are large birds with enormous, pouched bills and long wings. The smallest of the pelican is the Brown Pelican
), small individuals of which can be as little as 2.75 kg (6 lbs), 106 cm (42 in) and have a wingspan of 1.83 m (6 ft). The largest pelican species is believed to be the Dalmatian Pelican
), at up to 15 kg (33 lbs), 183 cm (72 in) and a maximum wingspan of nearly 3.5 m (11.5 ft).
Pelicans have two primary ways of feeding:
- Group fishing: used by white pelicans all over the world. They will form a line to chase schools of small fish into shallow water, and then simply 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.
- Plunge-diving: used almost exclusively by the American Brown Pelican, and rarely by white pelicans like the Peruvian Pelican or the Australian Pelican.
Occasionally, pelicans will consume animals other than fish. In one documented case, a pelican swallowed a live pigeon
and reports of similar incidents have surfaced. In fact, Pelicans are fairly opportunistic predators, and while fish forms the bulk of their diet due to being the most common food source where Pelicans nest, they will quite readily eat any other food that is available to them.
Pelicans are gregarious and nest colonially, the male bringing the material, the female heaping it up to form a simple structure. Pairs are monogamous for a single season but the pair bond extends only to the nesting area; mates are independent away from the nest.