We’re Living the Tweet Life: February

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By Jan Baumgartner

American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

Recently, an early morning stroll down Turtle Beach yielded the magnificent sight of a lone white pelican foraging for breakfast in the company of several brown pelicans. As both types of pelicans helped themselves to the Gulf’s plentiful buffet in the shallows just offshore, their table manners were strikingly different.

The smaller, more agile brown pelican espies its entree from the air and then plunges head-first below the surface to scoop up unsuspecting fish in a grandiose splash. The much larger white pelican first locates a target-rich environment on wing, then calmly paddles to trawl the surface, and finally dips its head and bill into the water to net the catch of the day.

The size differential between the two pelicans is noteworthy. Mature brown pelicans reach 9 to 11 pounds with a wingspan of 6 to 6.5 feet. However, the white pelican weighs in at 15 to 19 pounds with a wingspan of 8 to 9 feet—making it one of the largest birds in North America!

Winter is the best time for viewing white pelicans along the coastal bays and inlets of Siesta Key and Sarasota County before their spring migration to breeding grounds in the northern Great Plains.

Jan Baumgartner
Author: Jan Baumgartner

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