As a pilot and as a birder, I love pelicans.  I’m intrigued by the way they fly inches off the water, in “ground effect” and it’s fun to watch them weave back and forth with the traffic flow on a long causeway.  The Brown Pelicans are impish-looking as noted in the photo below.  At Goose Island State Park, they’ll line up begging for fish parts when sport fisherman return and clean their catches.

Brown Pelicans at Goose Island State Park boat ramp

White Pelicans, to me, seem more regal and reserved although I saw one in a tussle the other day with an Osprey for a catch — it was thirty seconds of aerial dog-fighting with the pelican ending up with the catch.

Brown Pelicans fish by plunging headfirst into the water — giving you the “that’s got to hurt” feeling as you watch.  White Pelicans tend to herd the fish as a group and skim off the ones they have corralled. 

The oil spill did not go west to this part of the Gulf and the pelican numbers seem strong.  The browns will stay here while the whites head north where we’ll see them off the New England coast later this spring.

Both types of pelicans are spectacular landers.  They wheel in, extend their feathers, slow and sometimes sort of water ski with their feet.  Haven’t seen a bounced landing yet — they are great naval aviators.

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