Birds of the World

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ANECDOTES

  Pelicans
 
 
 

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Pelecaniformes - Pelicanidae
 
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Pelecaniformes
Families: Tropicbirds, Gannets and Boobies, Pelicans, Cormorants, Anhingas, Frigatebirds,
      Hamerkop, Shoebill
 
Skip to:   
All Tropicbirds, All Sulids, All Pelicans, All Cormorants, All Anhingas, All Frigatebirds,
Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
 
Skip to:   
Plunge Diving, Relative Sizes of Pelicans, Identifying Frigatebirds
 
Species:   
Red-tailed Tropicbird, Blue-footed Booby, Nazca Booby, Australian Pelican,
Brown Pelican (Galapagos), Peruvian Pelican. Pied Cormorant, Pelagic Cormorant,
Brandt's Cormorant
, Neotropic Cormorant, Rock Cormorant, Imperial Cormorant,
Red-legged Cormorant, Flightless Cormorant, Great Frigatebird
 
Images:   
Red-billed Tropicbird, Blue-footed Booby, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant,
Anhinga, Magnificent Frigatebird, Totipalmate toes, Gular pouch, Red-billed Tropicbirds, Masked Booby, Northern Gannet, Brown Pelican. Anhinga, Great Frigatebird
 
  Family Pelecanidae - Pelicans
Wiki     ToL     EoL
EXAMPLE
  7-8 species, 1 genus (Pelecanus). North and South America, Africa, Australia, Eurasia. They are birds of inland and coastal waters and are absent in polar regions, deep oceans, oceanic islands, and inland South America.
   The family can be divided into two groups: pelicans with mostly white plumage and ground nests (Australian, Dalmatian, Great White, American White) and pelicans with darker plumage which nest in trees or on sea rocks (Pink-backed, Spot-billed, Brown, and Peruvian).
   Pelicans appear to be more closely related to storks than other families usually placed in this order. Their closest living relative appears to be the African Shoebill.
   Pelicans are medium-sized fish-eating birds with large gular pouches hung on distensible mandibular rami (bones of the lower jaw). This allows the gular pouch to expand greatly by bowing outward to form a net or basket to catch and hold fish. The gular sac and face are unfeathered. Their bill is hooked at the tip. Their palatines are fused in the midline with a median keel. Furcula are fused with the carina sterni. The bill rests on the foreneck in flight and often when at rest. Their tarsi are compressed with reticulate scales. Their skin has air cells (it is said to be emphysematous) and the skeleton is light (not dense). The body is stout. Their short legs bear totipalmate feet (all 4 toes webbed). The tail is short with 20-24 feathers. They have a large number of secondaries (29). Sexes are alike. In most species, the bill, pouch, and eye rings brighten  during breeding. Some also have a crest or knob on their mandible. They have a well developed uropygial (preen) gland.
   Pelicans are found on temperate and tropical coasts and some larger inland lakes of both hemispheres, Some are migratory. All are strong fliers with wing spans up to 10' and they often soar in thermals. Their usual flight is a leisurely sequence of flaps, followed by a long glide. They often use updrafts from waves of dunes to prolong their glides (slope soaring).
   The Brown Pelican often feeds by plunge diving. It may also feed while swimming on the surface. The larger Peruvian and Australian Pelicans occasionally plunge-dive but normally feed from the surface. The American White Pelican (and the other species of pelicans) do not dive. Pelicans feed mainly on fish, using their large pouch to scoop up fish near the surface. They may feed cooperatively, driving fish school in front of them toward shallower water.
   The plunge divers see their prey while on the wing; others may find fish by sight or by touch while swimming on the surface (and may feed at night). After making a catch, the gallon or so of water contained in the pouch is drained before the fish is swallowed. Other sea birds are quick to steal their meal during this process.
   Most pelicans are three or more years old when they first breed. They are monogamous and colonial (many Brown Pelicans breed on nearby Deveaux Bank, the ebb tidal delta of the North Edisto estuary). The male brings nesting material and the female builds the nest  Nests may be stick platforms in trees - in our area they are usually scrapes on the ground. They lay ~2 (1-3) eggs and both parents incubate, holding the eggs on or under the webs of their feet for ~35 days. Both provide subsequent care and food for the young. Initially, chicks stick their head and bill deeply into the adult's throat to receive regurgitated food. Usually only one chick survives to fledge. They fledge at about 10-12 weeks of age.
   Parents of ground-nesting species may drag their chicks around by the head before they are fed. Their young gather in crèches of up to 100 birds. Most are fed by their own parents but some chicks are fed communally.
 
 
All Pelicans:

   This is a list for my wife - she wants to see all of the species of pelicans in the World (we've only seen three):

   Great White Pelican. Pelecanus onocrotalus. Locally in south central Eurasia and southern Asia and Africa. It winters from the Mediterranean
       region east through south Asia to southeastern China, Indochina, and the Malay Peninsula, and south through Africa.
   Pink-backed Pelican. P. rufescens. Locally in the sub-Saharan Africa and east and southeast Africa. It winters widely in Africa south of the
       Sahara.
   Dalmatian Pelican. P. [phillippensis] crispus. Southern Eurasia from Albania and Greece east to western China. It winters south to the Nile
       delta and in southern Asia from Iraq east to India and southeaster China. Often considered conspecific with the Spot-billed Pelican.
   Spot-billed Pelican. P. [phillippensis] philippensis. South Asia from Pakistan and India to southeaster China, Sumatra, Java, and the
       Phillippines.
   Australian Pelican. P. conspicillatus. Australia and Tasmania north to Indonesia and New Guinea. Irregularly to Palau and Fiji.
   American White Pelican. P. erythrorhynchos. Western North America. Winters from southern US to Costa Rica.
   Brown Pelican. P. occidentalis.  Dickinson, 2003, lists 6 subspecies - populations of the Brown Pelican. They are located respectively in the
       West Indies, the coasts of South Carolina to Venezuela, the coast of California and western Mexico, the coasts of western Colombia and
       Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, (and the coasts of Peru and Chile).

   Clements, 2007, retains two full species of P. occidentalis:
   Brown Pelican. P. occidentalis. Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North America, ranging south to northern Peru and Brazil. Brown Pelicans may
       plunge dive when feeding.
   Peruvian Pelican. P. thagus. Pacific coast of southwestern South America from Peru to southern Chile. The species was originally considered
       conspecific with the Brown Pelican (above) and also feeds by plunge diving. However, its range is clearly distinct and it is twice the mass of
        the Brown Pelican. All other pelicans feed by surface dipping.

   These species can be grouped into pelicans with mostly white plumage in the adult (and which nest on the ground) - Australian, Dalmatian, Great White and American White Pelicans - and species with gray or brown plumage (which may nest in trees) - Pink-backed, Spot-billed, Brown, and Peruvian Pelicans.
 
 
Relative Sizes of Pelicans
Species Wing Spread Length Mass
Brown Pelican (smallest) 72-98"' 42-54" 6-12 lb
Peruvian Pelican 90" 60" 15.4 lb
American White Pelican 95-120" 50-70" 11-19 lb
Australian Pelican 90-100" 63-72" 4-13 lb
Great White Pelican 110" 63" 22 lb
Dalmatian Pelican (largest) 120" 63-71" 24-33 lb
Pink-backed Pelican 95"   12 lb
Spot-billed Pelican   49-60" 9.0 - 13.2 lb
     
   
Brown Pelican,
Pelican occidentalis
.
North Beach
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