The Brown Pelican
The Brown Pelican (Pelecanus Occidentalis) can spot fish from as high as 65’ above the water. Pelicans eat small fish that gather in schools near the surface. Herring (Clupea harengus) are among their favorite food, but they will also eat menhaden, mullet, anchovies and sailfin mollies. Once the prey has been spotted, the pelican will spiral to the left to protect its esophagus and trachea, which are located on the right side of the body. The graceful bird then tucks into a streamline position, and plunges head-first towards the water. Upon impact, its 18” long bill stuns the fish. Air sacs below the skin of the chest provide buoyancy. The pelican’s lower jaw spreads laterally and the gular pouch expands like a fishing net to scoop up its meal. This pouch can hold 2.6 gallons of water. The hungry bird then lifts its head slowly to drain the water out of the pouch, then snaps his head back to allow the fish to slide down its throat.