Friday, January 27, 2012

Brown Pelican Facts

For my dad's 75th birthday a group of us met for lunch in the historic city of Madisonville, about 60 miles east of Baton Rouge. The restaurant is located on the Tchefuncte (Cha-FUNK-tah) River with dining outside. I was so thankful I listened to that inner voice nagging me to bring my 400mm lens, for when I looked out onto the water there were dozens of brown pelicans and flocks of gulls. I immediately removed the 55-250 mm lens and strapped on the big guy.

Most pelicans hunt for fish by swimming on top of the water, scooping up fish as they go along. But the brown pelican approaches food gathering in a more physically demanding manner. Soaring above the water, they look for fish swimming close to the surface. Visually spotting their prey, they dive straight down from a height of sometimes 60 feet, stunning the fish on impact. This method of plunge-diving causes about 3 gallons of water to fill their huge pouches. As they open their bills and shake from side to side to release the water they will sometimes lose a fish or two. The gulls are right there to scoop up any cast-offs. I actually saw a gull brazenly nab a fish directly from the bill. Talk about drama! Yes, I'm easily amused.

This isn't my best work, but I'm posting it anyway. Normally I would say click on the photo for a larger, better view. But please don't. :)




Gull: GIve it up!! I know you're trying to hide it!!

Preparing for a dive

This pelican is trying to empty his pouch underwater in an effort to prevent the opportunistic gull from stealing.

Gull trying a sideways maneuver possibly to throw off the pelican's equilibrium.

Haha! Where are you now, you thieving gull!

Ooops, spoke too soon. 

Meal is safe and secure. From the pelican's viewpoint anyway. I'm sure the fish feels a little differently.



There was a quaint little antique shop (formerly a grand home) on the same street as the restaurant. I loved this little outhouse that sat whimsically on the property.




Not totally dependent on thieving, this gull actually dived down and got his own meal. Made me feel a little better about them.
CORRECTION: This is a Forster's Tern. Thanks, Hilary from The Smitten Image!


Brown pelicans became almost extinct because of the chemical DDT which caused thinning of egg shells, hampering their ability to produce young. At one time a population of 50,000 brown pelicans had dwindled down to a few nesting pairs. Since the ban of DDT their numbers have bounced back.

I hope you enjoyed the bird lesson today!

28 comments:

JillsyGirl said...

What do you mean these aren't that good!! To me, they're excellent! I love the series between the two birds. Great captures and thanks for the info.!! Have a great weekend!

the wild magnolia said...

I grade these photos tip top and way to much fun! The history introduction was good, I liked that too. They photos are very good.

The thief and the Big Brown Pelican fishing project.

Good job. It was fun.

TexWisGirl said...

i certainly did! i love the brown pelicans! you got some great shots of them and the gulls!

Nancy @ A Rural Journal said...

We'll see one or two on the river in warmer weather, but nothing like this. Amazing shots, Gail -- love the ones of the gull and the pelican playing hide and seek. :)

Rosemary Aubut said...

I loved it! These darn birds crack me up! What great shots Gail and yes I did enlarge them! Wonderful and educational post!

Pat said...

Great series of shots!

Butterbean Row said...

I am so glad that you know so much about birds. This was very interesting seeing the drama unfold between the gull and the brown pelican.

Hilary said...

What a wonderful series, Gail. The interaction between the gull and the pelican is fascinating. One thing though.. don't feel too much better about the gull diving for his own fish. Gulls generally aren't diving birds but terns are. I believe that the bird in the photo with the fish in its beak is a Forster's Tern.. not a gull as in the other images.

Shug said...

Girl...these pictures are fantastic! I especially like the one with the little fish out to the side. You had some very interesting subjects there and it looks they were putting on a show for you..
I'm heading to Louisiana tomorrow...Only going to Alexandria for business, but I do love that drive.
Hugs..

hootnonny said...

Am glad you had the presence of mind to take the 400mm! These are awesome! Today I daughter saw a hawk sitting on the wires behind my house. Too bad I wasn't home. Her Shi Tzus were at my house...hope he wasn't waiting to scoop in and pick up supper!

Reena Walkling said...

As you might know, I love your pelican series! Those thieving gulls are always around them ... it's interesting to watch! Great shots!

Michelle Renee said...

I absolutely adore the character you captured in each shot along with your commentary. I almost spit my coffee at my screen when I read "oops spoke to soon." lol.

Fun post...I enjoyed it a lot.

LadyFi said...

Wow wow wow! These pelican pictures are amazing! Be proud of them.

beth said...

not your best work??.....ARE YOU KIDDING ME???

THESE ARE FANTASTIC and oh how i love pelicans.....and wish so much that there were more around here.....

birds have really been scarce here....even the gulls and sandpipers.....i wonder where they've all gone ??

Ross said...

These are absolutely amazing shots. Just shows when you have the right lens you can get some great shots.

Evelyn S. said...

So glad you packed "the big guy" with you! (I was kicking myself yesterday for not taking my pocket camera so I could photograph our food at a local micro-brewery!) Wonderful captures of a lot of the action, Gail. There are at least two of the terns(?) that are just beautiful because they capture the design and color of feathers so well.

Tricia said...

Those photos are great, what are you talking about?! I loved the little lesson too. Those gulls sure seem persistent.

Ruth said...

Yes, I think these are great pics too!

Linda R said...

Oh my goodness. Your photos look amazing. Such great captures of our feathered friends. Those gulls never give up do they!!!

Hugs, Linda

Laura Delegal - Leroy Photography said...

Glad you listened to yourself and took your 400mm. Love all the pics, especially the one with the little fish in the air. When I was growing up along the Gulf Coast of South Alabama, we did not see osprey, eagles, or pelicans. Now we have a good deal of the brown pelicans who nest on Gaillard Island. The osprey and bald eagles can be seen too. I've saw a bald eagle recently on a lightpost on the Bay Way.

Tina said...

Aren't you so glad when you listen to that inner voice...what great shots and a interesting lesson on the brown pelican :-)

lisa said...

I think these are great Gail.
You captured so much action in the pelican photographs. In the third one, it looks like he's actually posing for you!

Barbara Shallue said...

These are wonderful! You did a fantastic job capturing the drama. We have brown pelicans around here but I never knew so much about them. Thank you!

Tricia @ Bluff Area Daily said...

You got the 411 on birds, don't ya! heheheee
And your photos are beautiful! =)

Pieces of Sunshine said...

Amazing bird captures Gail.

Pieces of Sunshine said...

Amazing bird captures Gail.

Starla said...

I love visiting that area through your photos!!

Kathy said...

Love all these shots. Poetry in motion!