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  • Writer's pictureVicki Viall

Pelicans: Winged Wonders

If you are privileged and blessed enough to live and/or work near the ocean, you have had the opportunity to see and watch pelicans. Right?

Maybe you have watched them landing or taking off. If so, you have probably wondered how they survived.

A friend of mine, a pilot by profession, has explained a landing (of plane, bird or other) as a controlled crash. Nice, huh? But, it truly is.

If you have doubts, please make the time to watch pelicans taking off. More importantly, watch them landing.

Or, even better, you have been able to watch them crash diving for dinner. We'll come back to that in a bit.

Have you ever heard the expression that "God don't make no mistakes!"

Watching pelicans may tempt one to question that. But, with continued observation, you will agree: "God don't make no mistakes."

Pelicans are truly one of the winged wonders of the world.

They are unique, and uniquely built. Much like humans.

Our design makes no sense until you look at the finished whole.

Two eyes, two ears, one mouth, two arms, two legs, one brain (which is highly under utilized), and in some cases, a huge, caring heart.

While a pelican may, at times look comical, they are built just exactly as they need to be to survive and flourish.

It's not that pelicans don't fly solo. They can, and sometimes do.

It's not that pelicans don't fly in formation, They certainly can, and do.

It's not that pelicans don't make use of thermal currents while they are flying, they do.

It's not like they don't fly so close to the ocean that one can barely see a space between their wingtips and the tops of the waves. They do. In fact, that is one of the things that make pelicans unique. This has something to do with the Bernouilli relation. Wait! What? Huh? Oh, I promise you will know more about that in a few minutes or you will have the tools to learn more about that before we are done. Promise!

Have you ever watched a pelican taking off from a standstill, sitting in the ocean? It looks like they are hopscotching into a takeoff.

Actually, they are!

Do you have any idea how much water a pelican can hold in their gullet pouch? You do now: they can hold up to three gallons! Amazing, isn't it?

It's not that pelicans don't have a sense of humor, cause I think they do. Just this week, while watching a line of pelicans approaching a line of surfers, I was just waiting...

Sure enough, the pelicans barely moved and cleared the surfers by less than a foot, I think.

One of the surfers, probably a newbie, actually jumped or flinched and turned to watch the pelicans like they had just landed from Mars.

The rest of the group was doing what I was. Laughing, of course!

See that picture right under the title? How close to me do you think those pelicans were? Kind of hard to judge isn't it? And, I also possess some awesome lenses.

Let me help you out here. The lens I was using cannot auto focus if you are closer than 8 feet from the subject. And, I don't mean 7 feet and 11 inches will auto-focus. It won't.

I had the lens at full distance, so, the closest pelican was at eight feet. When he ventured any closer, I lost focus on him.

I was on a hotel balcony six flights up and they were, literally, right beside me.

My point? Can you tell what their wing spans are? It's hard to tell from that angle, right? And, much as I tried, they wouldn't slow down and pose for me.

But, just so you know, pelicans wing spans can be up to 11 feet. Imagine that, if you will! Eleven feet!

Here, this might help. Check out that big guy taking off on the right. Keep the humans in mind and look how large that birds wingspan must be! Wow! Just Wow!

Every time I am in a position where they are that close to me when flying, especially gliding, I am just in awe of them and that wingspan!

But, there is so much more to these amazing creatures.

Have you ever watched a pelican diving for lunch? Another huge wow!

It amazes me that they don't break their necks. The height they dive from plus the speed at which they dive seems like a recipe for disaster. Don't worry; I found the answer for us.

"... while diving, a pelican rotates its body ever so slightly to the left. This rotation helps avoid injury to the esophagus and trachea, which are located on the right side of the bird’s neck." (Note 1) and (Note 2)

Indeed, "God don't make no mistakes."

We mentioned the pelican's pouch earlier. Remember, they can hold up to three gallons of water in their gullet pouch.

But can , or do they store food in there? No.

There is even a popular limerick about this:

“A wonderful bird is the pelican.

His beak can hold more than his belly can.

He can hold in his beak enough food for a week.

But I’ll be damned if I can see how the helican." (author unknown)

Again, no they don't store food in there, though. (Note 3)

Another fun event to observe would be a pelican swarm.

Oh, that is not the correct term, but it works for me. Check these photos out:

That's a pelican swarm. They are quite the experts at fishing, but why do all the hard work if a fishing boat is in the area, right? Smart, don't you think?

One can tell time by watching the pelicans. Well, one can tell if it is sunrise or sunset by watching them, anyway.

In the morning, as the sun begins its ascent, pelicans make the journey northward from where they spend the night.

In the afternoon as the sun prepares for its descent, the pelicans make their way back southward for the night.

I am pretty sure the amazing buggers do not wear watches, but they certainly know the time of day.

At this point, I fear I have bored you to tears. I do not apologize for being so enthralled by these creatures and wanting to share that.

Hopefully, you have all learned something new today.

I did, and in my book, that makes today a successful day.

It also means we got to spend some time together once again. I so look forward to these few minutes with you each every week.

As we enjoy the weekend, and as we prepare for a new week, be uplifted by the Winged Wonders. They greet each day with the rising sun; and end it as the sun goes to bed.

In between, they work hard and play hard. Great role models, I say.

What, pelicans play? Of course they do. Reread this if you do not believe, or check me offline for more photos.

Still, have a great week, and we will see you right back here next Saturday.

You all stay safe and well!

Before I began writing this blog, I posted on Facebook (and other sites), about my fascination with pelicans. I was amazed by the number of responses that I received!

It was an awakening. Many people have fallen in love, or at least in amazement, with these funny, industrious, and intelligent birds.

So, if you would like to know more about these winged wonders than I disclosed here, try these links:

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