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White pelicans a beautiful sight around the Bay

By Gary Bogue
Thursday, July 21st, 2011 at 6:10 am in Pelicans, White Pelican.

White pelican. Photo by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA
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The American white pelican is one of my favorite birds. It’s amazing to watch them paddling along in the water, searching for fish. When they spot their prey, they open their enormous beaks, scoop up several gallons of water (and the fish!), let the water drain from their beaks (actually from the very elastic skin in the bottom of their beaks that stretches into a huge “balloon” to hold the water), then tip their heads back and swallow their wiggling meal. An unusual fishing technique, to say the least.

Years ago when I was curator of the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, CA, our wildlife rescue center got in an injured (bruised wing kept it from flying) white pelican. It was such a character. Totally unafraid of humans, it would stand a few feet away from me and play catch with a paper ball. I’d toss it the ball, it would catch it in the very tip of its huge beak and then flip it back to me in one quick move. He definitely could have been drafted by the Giants (2nd base?) if they’d have been willing to pay him off in fish. We released him back into the wild a few weeks later after his wing had healed.

White pelicans, often spotted here and there, flying above or standing in the marshlands around the Bay and in the Delta,  are beautiful as they sail above you, their white bodies outlined against the blue sky. I especially enjoy Dave Harper’s dramatic photographs. Thanks, Dave. /Gary

White pelicans sailing above the Bay. Photo by Dave Harper, Oakley, CA
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