Posts Tagged: Brown Pelican in flight

Atlantic Coast Adult Brown Pelican in Breeding Colors

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Brown Pelican in full breeding colors, in flight low over water (sandra calderbank)

The Atlantic Coast Adult Brown Pelican is a stunning and massive seabird in its breeding colors. They differ from the California Brown Pelican in breeding colors by the color of the skin on their pouch. During breeding season, the throat pouch of the Atlantic Pelican turns brown while the Pacific Pelican’s turns red. The pouch stretches and is meant for catching fish. Aside from the throat pouch color, these Pelicans are the same in behavior and size. These massive water birds frequently glide just above the water. Their feeding method involves diving headfirst into a school of fish. To soften the effect of high headfirst dives, they have air sacs beneath their skin. It’s quite a dramatic sight to watch the headfirst dive from a height of 60 to 100 feet. The pouch they possess can hold fish and up to 3 gallons of water. Before swallowing the fish, the pelican makes sure to empty the water from its pouch. Pelicans are suprisingly graceful and are very social, congretating in flocks. Brown Pelicans have a lifespan of up to 30 years.


Tight Formation Flight

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Three non breeding Adult Brown Pelicans in flight in tight formation against blue sky (sandra calderbank)

As I walked along the Sebastian River, hoping to capture some birds on camera, I spotted something in the distance flying towards me. Initially, I thought I saw one gigantic bird. As it approached, I realized there were three Brown Pelicans in a tight formation flight.

I have seen massive flocks of Pelicans fly in V formation before. They fly in V-formation because they conserve energy. The upstroke of one bird’s wing creates an updraft and the following bird saves a significant amount of energy. The trailing pelican’s heart beats slower than the lead bird because the trailing pelican flaps less than the leader.

These three Pelicans just seemed to fly along in tight formation flight like an acrobatic display. The lead Pelican soared to the right of the other two. I like to think they were putting on a show for me.