"Bird of the Ocean Shores"

Brown Pelican

        I drove to California with my Daughter to see Grandkids. It was an adventure not only to see the new "greats" in my life, but to recall the smell of salt in the air and feel the sand beneath my feet. After all the hugs and kisses, tons of food, and lots of talk, my Granddaughter had a surprise for her bird-loving Grandma. She took me to brown pelicanMalibu Beach.

        We went driving next to the ocean, we watched the sun lowering itself over the horizon, and we saw a long line of large birds cruising along the breaking waves. Wow! I had seen these scenes many times before in movies, and now I was seeing it live. Then, as though right on cue, a flock of Brown Pelicans landed in a tidal pond 100 yards away, and I had a camera!

        The Brown Pelican has been photographed as both a scenic flyer and drawn as a comical figure through the years. It is the favorite bird of many bird watchers. The Brown Pelican is the bird of the ocean shores, for they are not found inland. They range along both coasts of the United States clear down to South America.

        The Brown Pelicans have different hunting techniques. They will tuck their wings while flying and plunge-dive into the ocean seeking food. Other Pelicans fish in groups on the surface of the water, working as a team to roundup fish. Brown Pelicans will follow fishing boats and clean up any trash fish thrown overboard. The fishermen call them opportunist moochers. They are also known to steal fish from other sea birds when possible.

        Unlike most birds that warm their eggs with the skin of their breasts, the Brown Pelicans incubate their eggs with their feet. They hold the eggs under the webs that stretch from the front toes to the hind toe, essentially standing on the eggs to warm them. After the 2nd World War when DDT was prevalent in their food supply, this peculiar incubation method caused the Brown Pelican to almost go extinct. The effects of the pesticide made the eggshells thin, and the incubating parents frequently cracked their eggs. When DDT was discontinued, Brown Pelican numbers began to increase and they are doing well today.

        If you would like to see this comical, movie star bird you will need to go to southern California. The Pelicans you see passing through our area are the White Pelicans migrating north.

        The artist this week is Renee Linford. Thank you for your time and your talent drawing the Brown Pelican. If you have questions about Pelicans or just want to talk about birds, call Marilyn Davis, 435 673-0996.


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