A young brown pelican takes a splish splash bath

July 11, 2014, 8 a.m.
brown pelican

The smallest of the pelicans is still a big bird!

Out of eight species of pelican in the world, the brown pelican is the smallest. Even so, this gregarious seabird grows to be between 3.5-4.5 feet long, with a wingspan of 6-8 feet and a weight of 6-12 pounds! That’s no dainty bird! Another feature that sets them apart is their hunting behavior. They are one of only two species of pelican to catch fish by diving head first into the water. Other pelican species simply scoop up fish while they swim along the surface of the water. Booooooring! Brown pelicans have a far more spectacular approach. Soaring above the water sometimes as high as 60-70 feet, they will spot a school of fish, dive straight into the water and scoop up a bill-full. They’ll then squeeze the water out of their pouch and swallow their catch. Using a hunting strategy like this, they’ll consume about four pounds of fish each day. And when not hunting or resting, they’re taking a bit of a bath like this.

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Google+, and Facebook.

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