Birds Living II by Richard Stade - RStade

American White Pelican – Foraging

Pelecanus erythrorhynchos

November – Texas

L=62”......WS=108”......WT=16.4 lb Order: Pelecaniformes (Totipalmate Birds) Family: Pelecanidae (Pelicans)

Pelicans are very large water birds with enormous bills and pouches. In North America two pelicans exist - the American White Pelican and the Brown Pelican. Both are large but the American White is almost twice as heavy as the Brown and is one of the heaviest flighted birds (other heavy birds include swans and condors) in the world. American White Pelicans forage alone and in groups in freshwater habitats. They are well known for cooperative foraging where they encircle and trap groups of fish, drive them into shallow areas, and then, in a coordinated fashion, scoop them up with their bills. When taking off this large and heavy bird has to use both wings and feet. The foot action is somewhat like a breaststroke in human swimming. The pelican pushes with its feet, raises them into, and then strokes again. It usually takes 3-5 strokes along with flapping to get airborne. Once airborne they are graceful and strong fliers and very effective users of thermals.