We started out early in the morning but the wind made the shaking of the camera very challenging but still gave me some hands on time with the lens none the less. Later in the afternoon this wonderful opportunity presented itself.
During the spring and summer white pelicans are found in large breeding colonies, usually on islands in large inland lakes. They range far from the colonies to forage on shallow lakes and marshes. They spend winters along the coasts from Florida to Texas.
The white pelican differs in a few important ways from its cousin the brown pelican. The white pelican forages by swimming in cooperative flocks, herding schools of fish to waiting, open bills. The brown pelican dives for its food, much like a kingfisher or osprey. White Pelicans are inland nesters while brown pelicans are closely associated with coastal saltwater.
These large, gregarious birds(with a nine-foot wingspan!) often travel and forage in large flocks, sometimes traveling long distances in V-formations. They soar gracefully on very broad, stable wings, high into the sky in and between thermals. On the ground they are ungainly, with an awkward, rolling, but surprisingly quick walk. Their webbed feet make for water-ski landings and strong swimming. They forage by swimming on the surface, dipping their bills to scoop up fish, then raising their bills to drain water and swallow their prey. They also forage cooperatively: groups of birds dip their bills and flap their wings to drive fish toward shore, corraling prey for highly efficient, synchronized, bill-dipping feasts. Pairs court in circling flights and in strutting, bowing, and jabbing displays at a chosen nest sites. Though females lay two eggs, only one chick per nest usually survives—one harasses or kills the other (a behavior known as siblicide). At 2 to 3 weeks old, chicks leave their nests and form into groups called crèches. Parents continue to forage for them, returning to the creche and searching out their young to feed them. Pelicans respond to threats by flying aggressively into a near-stall or, on land, adopting an upright posture and grunting. More severe threats from aerial predators provoke open-billed displays where the pelican lunges forward, jabbing with its enormous bill. Predators include foxes, coyotes, gulls, ravens, Great Horned Owls, and Bald Eagles.
A white pelican’s pouch can hold more than 2.5 gallons of water when full. Imagine holding that much water in your throat. Now imagine all that water full of flopping, squirming fish!