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Plunge Diving Pelicans

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There has been lost of food out in the bay the last couple of weeks and that means lots of bird activity out there. One of the major species of birds that we have been seeing out in the bay is the Brown Pelican.

Brown Pelicans are one of the largest species of shorebirds that are found in Monterey. This bird can weigh as much as 4 to 11lbs (2 to 5kg) and have a wingspan of 6 to 7ft (2.03 to 2.28m). Like all pelicans, they have a very long bill that can be 11 to 13 in long witch they use to feed on small schooling fish. Instead of using its long bill to scoop fish out of the water Brown Pelicans plunge into the water head first to catch the fish.

When feeding a Brown Pelican will fly at a max height of 60 to 70ft (18 to 21m) above the ocean until a school of fish has been spotted. Once a school of fish has been located to bird will lock onto a particular target and tip downward with their wings shaped into a V while diving. As soon as the tip of the bill touches the sur5face of the water the pelican will push their feet and wings back trying to create more force as they enter the water. Pelicans can hit the water with so many forces that fish six feet below the surface can be stunned. Once under the water, the pelican will open its bill and the pouch under the lower jaw will stretch out allowing the pelican to scoop up water and fish. The pouch can stretch out to hold up to 3 gallons of water and fish. Like most animals, Pelicans can’t drink salt water so before swallowing its mouth full of fish it will tip its bill down draining the water out once it is on the surface. Because this plunge diving behavior is so high impact Pelicans have air sacs throughout their bodies to help to cushion the shock of these dives. It has been estimated that a Brown Pelican can eat as much as 4 lbs. of fish a day.

Usually, Brown Pelicans are found close to shore, usually within 5 miles of land but can be found as far out as 40 miles. We usually find the brown pelicans hanging out6 with the humpback whales and the sea lions while they are feeding. So come out and join us and enjoy a couple of plunge diving pelicans while you watch the whales.