This photo was taken in February 2006. It’s a treat to watch Brown Pelicans at work. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology reports that they are the only dark colored of the seven pelican species, and the only one to spot their prey from the air and then plunge head first into the water to catch it. They are amazing and amusing to watch as they circle above the water, then dive at an angle. When they surface, the pelicans first drain the water from their bills, then point their bill skyward and swallow.
It’s not unusual to see seagulls hanging out with the Brown Pelicans, sometimes even standing on the pelican’s head when it resurfaces. But far from being the pelican’s best friend, these sly ones are hoping to snatch the fish from the pelican’s pouch while it is busy draining water from its bill.
At one time the Brown Pelican was on the Endangered Species list, a victim of DDT. Pelicans are unique in the way they incubate their eggs – rather than using their breasts to warm the eggs as most birds do, the pelican covers the egg with its webbed feet. DDT caused eggs to be thin-shelled and the pelicans often cracked the shells with its feet. In the years since DDT has been banned from use, the Brown Pelican have been able to revive their numbers and thrive again.