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6 curiosities about pelicans

When someone thinks of waterfowl, a pelican almost never comes to mind. However, these huge birds with their characteristic beaks are very experienced fishers. Some species do not hesitate to rush from the heights to obtain a copious catch. We reveal here some curiosities:

There are pelicans on every continent except Antarctica.

Pelicans are huge birds capable of flying high and far. They normally thrive in warm waters close to the tropics, although we can find them on every continent except Antarctica. They also inhabit, although they are less common, in inland areas of South America. They do not usually inhabit the open sea, although sometimes one gets confused and ends up drifting in the ocean.

The bag is not used to store food, but to hunt

When we talk about pelicans, the first thing we think of is that huge pouch under their beak. It is called 'gular sac', and it serves to feed them, but it is possible that they do not do it as you imagine. There is a widespread belief that the pelican stores its food there, as if it were a pantry. Nothing is further from reality. They use their bag to fish: they catch prey and then lean back to drain the water and swallow the fish immediately. For example, the American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) can store about 11 liters of water in its beak. The capture formula will also depend on the species. Some of them, like the gannet pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) fish by diving into the water from the air. Others prefer to swim in formation, pushing small schools of fish and gulping down the catch by opening their beaks.

They are monogamous birds, but not always

The male is usually in charge of defending the nest and nearby perches for about 3 weeks. Mark the territory even before getting a partner. Normally, they mate about 7 times before laying the first egg. Of course, each act lasts very little: only between 7 and 14 seconds. During copulation, the male grasps the upper part of the female's neck with her beak, mounts her behind her, and holds her neck until the act is over. A curiosity is that pelicans are monogamous birds, but only during the breeding season, which means that they can have more than one breeding pair during their entire lives. Of course, once the eggs hatch, both parents deal equally with the protection of the nest and the care of the offspring.

Some species develop a temporary 'horn' on their beak.

Every year, a strange thing happens to adult American white pelicans during the breeding season: they develop a kind of broad, flat, yellow or orange “horn” on the top of the bill of sexually mature birds (both males and females). females). A protrusion that scientists believe serves to protect the young, and will fall when the breeding season is over. 

They are gregarious birds

Pelicans like to live in a community, and usually form large colonies, in many cases they congregate on the same island. This is the case of the common pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus), which normally forms large flocks that nest on islands and lakes in North America. Many species are also migratory. the gannet pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) that travels the United States and Canada from coast to coast. 

They can measure up to 3 meters in wingspan

Some species reach 180 centimeters in length, a wingspan of 3 meters and 13 kilos in weight, which makes them one of the largest birds that exist. Males are usually larger than females. The smallest species is the brown pelican, but it is still about 1,5 meters long.

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