Look Up: In flight

I took this photo from Anglins Fishing Pier in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida, on a very windy day.  I had ample time to capture the shot because the pelican was hovering, trying to fly into the wind.

This is a brown pelican.  He (or she) is looking a bit dark due to the lighting and the angle.  Here are a few photos that didn’t involve looking up:

The brown pelican is one of the smallest of the world’s seven species of pelicans.  It is unique in that it is the only dark pelican as well as the only pelican that dives from the air into the water to catch its food.  They sight their prey from up above and plunge into the water head first to capture the fish.  The water is drained out of the bill, and then the pelican swallows the fish.  While the pelican is draining the water, it is not uncommon for gulls to try to steal the catch from the pelican’s pouch.  Pelicans are not innocents, though.  They will gladly steal fish from other seabirds.

The brown pelican is a coastal bird that breeds primarily on islands, nesting in colonies with herons and other waterbirds.  They incubate their eggs with their feet rather than warming them against the skin of their breasts like other birds.  The eggs are held under the stretched webs of their feet, essentially making the parents stand on the eggs.  This made the eggs vulnerable to the effects of DDT which made the eggshells thin and easy to crack when the parents stood on them for incubation.  The use of DDT in the U.S. was discontinued in the 1970’s.

The brown pelican, as you may have all heard by now, is the state bird of Louisiana and is possibly in danger from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  So far two oil-covered birds have been rescued.  One was a brown pelican.  If interested, you can read a little about some of the wildlife at risk from the spill here.

13 Comments on “Look Up: In flight”

  1. Jen Uy says:

    that’s one huge beak! how near were you when you took this picture? kind of scary. 😀
    nice shots, btw…

  2. Robin says:

    Thanks, Jen. 🙂

    I was a just a few feet away. The pelicans seemed to be used to people (or maybe they know those huge beaks will help people keep their distance).

  3. Guy Jonsson says:

    Hi Robin,
    Thanks for visiting my photo on SkyWatch Friday. (http://manilat.se/?p=597 )
    A friend and I, who share a passion for photography, have started a site called
    Everyday Life Around the World. (http://everydaylifeatw.com )
    This is about sharing little pieces of your everyday life with people all over the world. There will be a new theme each week. The theme will be presented on Sunday and then you have the whole following week to post your picture.
    The theme for this week is “A typical house in my village/town!”
    I look forward to see a house from the place where you live.
    Best wishes
    Guy Jonsson

  4. Brian says:

    I hope the pelican signed a release form. 🙂

    It’s beautiful in Florida today. After a low in mid-60s the high will be in the mid-80’s with clear blue skies and light winds.

    • Robin says:

      lol! No release form. I was winging it, Brian. 😀

      Sounds nice. The weather here is rainy and chilly. I wouldn’t be surprised if it snowed.

  5. kelhan says:

    i’ve never seen a brown pelican – the contrasting red beak and yellow head is lovely
    we have heaps of white/grey ones on the lakes here

  6. Kala says:

    Wonderful images of my most favorite bird in the world!

  7. Anna Surface says:

    These are wonderful, detailed captures of the pelican! I really like the first photo of the pelican flying (looks like it is smiling) with the buildings in the background.

  8. Robin says:

    Thanks, Kelhan, Kala, and Anna. 🙂

  9. […] to get close and photograph it rather than just look at it from the highway as we passed by), and In Flight (the pelican will explain […]

  10. James Thompson says:

    It is an amazing bird. Swimming near the pier at Lauderdale bts last month, one dived -like a Stuka – into the sea, forty yards from me. It was an extraordinary thing to witness. Your pictures are brilliant.

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