White Pelicans have always been one of my favorite snow birds. While beautiful Brown Pelicans are a common year-round sight around the coastal areas of Florida, their enormous pale relatives are only found here during the winter months. While American White Pelicans share some physical characteristics with Brown Pelicans, they differ greatly in the way they capture their favorite food, fish.
When I first arrived the White Pelicans were foraging along side of a group of Double-crested Cormorants. These two species sometimes forage together as their feeding techniques compliment one another. As the Cormorants dive beneath the water to fish, the fish swim upwards only to be scooped up by the waiting Pelicans.
Working together, with power and grace, the Pelicans were corralling the fish in the swallow water. Sometimes they formed a circle around the fish and other times they swam in a line and drove the fish to shore where they were easier catch.
It was incredible to watch how well they coordinated their timing.
A Pelican's large pouch is capable of holding up to 3 gallons of water, and apparently some really large fish.
This Pelican was having difficulty getting this large fish down. The line from the old limerick "its beak can hold more than his belly can" was ringing true for this bird.
While White Pelicans are known to be cooperative feeders, I did observe a few situations where cooperation turned into competition.
This pelican decided to try and quietly sneak away for the group to try and swallow its large catch in peace!