Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Bag Bills

I admit sometimes I am smitten in the craziest ways.  But it is no less real, perhaps, I am just better able to see the wonderfully unique features that makes this bird- such a personality!  

The "Bag Bill" or Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis is a beautiful bird!

A large, colorful presence found along the Florida coast, this handsome adult Brown Pelican, which sports a yellow crown and silvery plumage, is a mighty fisherman.  There is a wonderful poem that documents his prowess:
         What a marvelous bird is the pelican
          His beak can hold more than his belly can
          He can store in his beak
          Enough fish for a week
          But don't ask me how the hell-he-can!              (Author unknown)

 Indeed you will find his beak can hold more (water) than his belly can, and he strains the water from his catch.  But the catching is the amazing part!  He cruises along the water, until he seems suddenly rendered with a paralysis which throws him into a head-long dive, deep into the water.  Up he comes to the surface, with a virtual smile on his beak and a fish in writhing within.  He drains the water a bit, throws back his head, and gulp!  Down it goes.

Pelicans seem nearly improbable in flight.  They cruise in small groups, or casual flocks of 20 or so, along the coastline. They look almost prehistoric as they cruise overhead; it boggles my mind that these unwieldy birds even fly!  They look like a squadron of  B-52's.  Sometimes their formation skims so low across the water, wingtips nearly touch the waves.  On they go, for miles and miles...

And if fishing is not so hot, no worries!  There are plenty of Florida fisherman most willing to share the scraps from their fish cleaning process.  All the pelicans have to do is hang out at the local docks 'til the boys come in.  I once heard someone say pelicans were stupid, but that doesn't look so dumb to me.

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