American White Pelican

Did you know the bird in the picture below has mated? Read on.

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American White Pelican

American White Pelican swimming

This picture was taken at the St. Louis Zoo as the American White Pelican swam peacefully around the pond. It won an honorable mention in one of the St. Louis Photo Club competitions.
American White Pelican Showing off its pouch

Four American White Pelicans on a log enjoying the sun. One of which is airing out its pouch.

While fishing, the American White Pelican often fishes in a "U" shape group, moving fish into position for easy capture. They consume up to 4 pounds of fish daily. The elastic expandable throat sac of the American White Pelican can hold up to 3 gallons of water. Once a fish is caught in the pouch, all excess water is drained by tilting the bill downward. The fish is then swallowed whole.

Unlike the Brown Pelican, the American White Pelican does not dive to catch its dinner. Instead, it scoops fish up with its large bills from the surface of the water.

Their black-tipped nine-to-ten-foot wingspan carries them high into the air, helping them take advantage of thermals. They can fly to heights of 10,000 feet (3,000 meters). But when not soaring, they can fly really low, at three or feet above the water.

They are often seen flying in groups.

The white pelican is one of the largest birds in North America. Their bill length is approximately 13 to 14.5 inches in the male. Female bills are about 2 inches shorter.

American White Pelican flying over Mississippi River

White Pelican in flight.

American White Pelicans sunning themselves on log in the Mississippi River

Which of these two birds have mated. What do you say? "That is a stupid question and unanswerable." Not so.

One-third of the way up their bill, they develop a horizontal horn, as seen here on the setting bird. This horn is shed after mating. So, the answer to the question is the standing bird has mated.

Pelicans can overheat in the hot sun. To decrease their body temperature, they face away from the sun and flutter their pouch. The pouch has many blood vessels, and the fluttering will cool their blood.

The White Pelican embryos squawk while still in the egg to tell their parents if they are too hot or too cold.

A group of American White Pelican swimming on the Mississippi River

Five American White Pelicans floating together at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. A group of pelicans is called by a variety of names, including "brief," "pod," "pouch," "scope," and "squadron." Just don't ask me why those nouns. But it is what it is.

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