White Pelicans: A prehistoric (bird) essay in photos


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When I thought of the idea of doing a post on pelicans and images of pelicans, I had not considered how many images I actually have of them. A lot. A single post I realized is not really feasible, so I am breaking up the posts into pelican categories. Yesterday was Brown Pelicans taking off from the water. Today is dedicated more towards white pelicans.

White Pelican flying over Tomales Bay

While Browns and Whites are similar in structure, they vary greatly in coloration and habits. The Brown Pelicans fish by diving from lofty heights and twisting as they plummet, striking the water head first. White Pelicans by contrast will often feed in groups as they swim along, herding fish in front of them, and scooping them up with their large sack like bills (which are only used to catch fish, not store them).

Whites swimming as a group that they might herd the fish in front of them

Another difference is during breeding season. Both Browns and Whites have color shifts, but it is only the whites that grow a horn from their bills, giving them an especially prehistoric look. (They already look like some sort of feathered dinosaur to me, with that large ungainly head and its elongated shape.)

Notice the hornlike protuberance on the pelican's bill. The ladies find this growth quite sexy and masculine...

However, simply because the White Pelicans fish as a collective, doesn’t always mean that you will find them as a group.

A lone Peli, hunched in a resting position, its head tucked in tight

Although, finding them in a group will be the most likely. Whether they are swimming or flying, they are a social bird, and can often be found as a unit, albeit one that is constantly being reconfigured as new pelicans join up and others wander off. Unlike some of the gangs of today, membership in a flock is not for life.

Pelicans wrapping their way down a valley. I love the black edging to their wings

About Galen Leeds Photography

Nature and wildlife photographer, exploring the world on his feet and from his kayak. Among other genres, he is one of the leading kayak photographers in Northern California. To learn more about him, visit him on his website- www.galenleeds.net
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