Earth’s oceans and waterways wouldn’t be the same without the amazing birds that wing so gracefully over water and crashing waves. Pelicans are fascinating creatures. Not only are they gigantic, with wingspans as large as 10 feet, but they can also soar up to heights of 10,000 feet on thermals!
When it eats, the pelican catches prey in its large gular sack, squeezes the water out the side of its bill, moves the food until it is facing head-down in its throat, and swallows.
Pelican bills are actually able to sense creatures underwater, which is handy if the water is murky and the birds can’t see. Most pelicans will fish in groups. They beat the water with their wings to drive fish into the shallows and then scoop them up with their bills. A hook on their upper mandibles helps them grip slippery food – and sometimes even allows them to nab a large fish, toss it into the air, and swallow it in one gulp!
Aside from making the birds lighter and helping them float in water, the air sacs also improve flight aerodynamics by smoothing and stiffening the feathers across the abdomen and helping to cushion the impact when they dive for fish.