Besides the dolphins that have popped up beside the cruising Boudreaux several times a day to see what we’re up to (see last post), we have enjoyed seeing lots of brown pelicans on our journey. They peer at us from pilings and buoys—always, it seems, a little imperiously—sharp brown eyes keeping us in their gaze atop long beaks tucked against their throats. And they are wonderful to watch in flight—gliding with their arched wings outstretched six feet or more. When they spot a fish, they plunge into the water with a big splash. Our authoritative Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior describes how, once their heads enter the water, lower jaw bones flex apart and their big pouches balloon open to capture their prey. They swallow their fish whole, squeezing their pouches closed while forcing water out.
Brown pelicans were put on the federal endangered species list in 1970 after DDT nearly wiped them out in the 1950s and 60s. Then, after a celebrated comeback that resulted in their being de-listed just last year, came the oil spill. The USFWS has determined that brown pelicans have been the bird species most impacted by the spill, making up 58-percent of all dead and injured birds reported. The oil spill hit during their nesting season, and they nest in colonies on barrier islands along the Gulf shore. They depend solely on fish and live their lives entirely in the coastal zone.
Yesterday morning as we stirred in the early morning sunlight at the quiet town dock of tiny White City, FL, on a section of the Intracoastal Waterway that is more river than sea, we were surrounded by pelicans. Here’s a link to a pelican photo gallery:
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