P is for Pelican
Pelican photo by Richard Taylor on Flikr.
The name pelican derives from an Ancient Greek word, which itself came from a word meaning ‘axe’.
Despite having the biggest beak, up to 1.6 feet, and being the heaviest birds to fly, pelicans are remarkably graceful in the air.
They have air bubbles in their bones which keeps their weight down and give them extra buoyancy, and also air sacs beneath the skin in their throat, chest and beneath their wings which also help with the latter.
During courtship the pelicans’ bills in all species change to vivid, beautiful colours.
Sometimes pelicans hunt in groups, beating the water surface with their wings to herd fish into the shallows. Then they scoop them up, their beaks expanding like a concertina, drain up to 3 gallons of water away, and gulp the fish down.
Pelicans are remarkably endearing looking birds, and are related to Shoebill storks.
They are not endangered generally, but are losing habitat and have been affected by pesticides.
Photo © Richard Taylor as above.
Poem © Liz Brownlee.
Information from Wikipedia.
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