A Pelican Briefing

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This week’s photo, taken August 31, 2013 from the beach at Westport, WA, features two BROWN PELICANS soaring the surf.

This past weekend, from the beach in Westport, we watch what seems to be endless streams of BROWN PELICANS cruising along the coast. Some pelicans are traveling solo, while others are moving in single-file-formation flocks of a few or as many as a dozen or more.

Watching pelicans riding the waves can be one of the most impressive avian displays a person can witness along a beach. With a wingspan of more than 6 1/2 feet, the Brown Pelican does not exert anymore energy than needed. As this huge bird travels up and down the coast, it will not flap its wings if it can cover the same distance with a glide. Pelicans aren’t lazy; they’re smart. When they are flying, they often skim just above an ocean wave, to take advantage of the updraft of air created by that moving wall of water. When the wave starts to crash on top of itself and the lift begins to diminish, the pelican banks and glides toward another swell of sea water.

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About Joe Sweeney

I photograph birds to share the beauty and wonder I find in nature.
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5 Responses to A Pelican Briefing

  1. Mary Friestedt says:

    Joe, thanks for this good info which I will share with the kids on my tours at Torrey Pines! Cheerio, Mary :))

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Chris VB says:

    Did you go to that area looking for the Hudsonian Godwit? Any luck with the Buff breasted at Nisqually

  3. cjacker says:

    Dear Joe,

    Having lived in South Florida and the Bay Area much of my life, I became a lover of pelicans (both the brown and the white, which roost in trees in South Florida late in the day and make the tree seem to be sporting large white fruits).

    When I attended a history of medicine conference in Madison, Wisconsin, some years ago, I joined a group touring a bird sanctuary in a swamp outside Madison and I was surprised to learn that pelicans live there part of the year, too!

    Yes, pelicans are amazing gliders. As you know, they are also amazing divers! I’ve often seen a pelican aloft spot prey, pull in its wings, dive into the water, come to surface, and raise its bill to swallow what it caughtand you can see the contours of the soft underbelly of the bill undulate as the fish is wriggled down into the gullet.

    I’m in the middle of a wonderful novel set in Florida in which the ecology of the region, including birds, plays an important role. It’s Swamplandia by Karen Russell.

    Cheers, Caroline

    Caroline Jean Acker, Ph.D. Associate Professor and Head Department of History Carnegie Mellon University Baker Hall 240 Pittsburgh PA 15213-3890 412 268 6040 fax: 412 268 1019 acker@andrew.cmu.edu

    From: Short & Tweet Bird Reports <comment-reply@wordpress.com> Reply-To: Short & Tweet Bird Reports <comment+_wkqzqmztef2dhif6ivh1h@comment.wordpress.com> Date: Thursday, September 5, 2013 9:15 PM To: User <acker@andrew.cmu.edu> Subject: [New post] A Pelican Briefing

    Joe Sweeney posted: ” This weeks photo, taken August 31, 2013 from the beach at Westport, WA, features two BROWN PELICANS soaring the surf. This past weekend, from the beach in Westport, we watch what seems to be endless streams of BROWN PELICANS cruising along the coa”

  4. Connie Saunders says:

    Joe, I love hearing and watching the “moving wall of water” at the ocean or Lake Superior. Thanks for the bringing me back there with this description.

    Connie Saunders Minnepolis

  5. Jeff says:

    Joe! Did you catch the first Nature series on PBS titled Earthflight? Phenomenal, including mounted cameras on a variety of birds. The series runs for 7 weeks I believe. Cheers, j

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