At first glance, pelicans may seem like rather unusual birds. Their large beak seems disproportionate in comparison with the size of their body, but it is thanks to it that the birds successfully catch fish, which is the basis of their diet.
American White Pelican are quite unique in nature, because there are no related species in nature. The large beak, where the pelican bird puts the fish, is an important organ for their life.
Also a unique feature on the bird’s body is the pelican’s air sac. Thanks to him, the bird is able to maneuver not only in flight, but also in water. These pouches are found under the wings, between the bones, and in the skin on the throat and chest.
1. American white pelicans nest in the northern United States and Canada. In autumn, they fly to the southern states of the United States, spending the entire winter on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, including all of Florida. Many of them winter in Mexico and Guatemala. Some pelicans continue their journey even further south into Central America; to Costa Rica and possibly further to Panama.
2. American White Pelicans are diurnal birds. They are seen alone and in packs of up to 3,500 individuals. They rest, standing on the banks of reservoirs and rivers. In flight, they gather in flocks and fly in a V-shape.
3. The plumage of pelicans is all white except for the primary and secondary wing feathers, which are black. Both sexes have the same appearance. The males are larger than the females, but the difference in size between many pairs is not sufficient to distinguish them with the naked eye. They can weigh as much as 30 pounds and their wing spans can exceed 9 feet.
4. A unique feature of the American Pelican is the Horny Comb that grows on top of the bill. This crest develops in both females and males, remaining throughout the nesting season. This is the biggest difference between this species and the Old World White Pelican.
5. The food for American white pelicans, like other pelicans, is mainly fish and supplemented by small crustaceans. The fish they eat includes freshwater trout.
6. American White Pelican form a semicircle while fishing. Then, as if responding to a signal, everyone begins to flap their wings on the water, moving towards the shore or shallow water. Apparently, they scare the fish until they corner it. Once the goal is reached, each pelican lowers its head and catches its prey.
7. As soon as Pelicans capture their prey, they drain the water they caught along with the prey by tilting their heads and squeezing the muscles of the mandible sac. The fish is usually swallowed immediately after draining the water.
8. The nesting season is in spring and summer, from April to August. Pelicans nest in colonies, usually on islands in freshwater lakes, every year a new pair is formed. In captivity, some pairs have become permanent.
9. The nest is in the ground, it may be a significant accumulation of grasses and other plant material, or perhaps just a small depression in the ground. To keep the peace between neighbors, the distance between each nest is an outstretched neck plus a beak.
10. A typical nest contains two eggs. Incubation is carried out by two parents and takes from 29 to 36 days. Chicks are born naked and completely dependent on their parents.
11. The mortality of chicks is high, it is believed that it is about 40%, but adult pelicans live in the wild for an average of 26.4 years.
12. Pelicans have few predators due to their large size. The main predators are coyotes, cats and humans who prey on them.
13. Pelican populations are declining around the world due to declining fish stocks, overfishing or water pollution, habitat destruction, and the direct impact of human activities.