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Nature Life: Pelicans And Nature

By Obiabin Onukwugha

Pelicans (genus Pelecanus) are a large water birds that make up the family Pelecanidae. They are gregarious birds, travelling in flocks, hunting cooperatively, and breeding colonially.

It is said that Pelicans are characterized by a long beak and a large throat pouch used for catching prey and draining water from the scooped-up contents before swallowing.

They have predominantly pale plumage, except for the brown and Peruvian pelicans. The bills, pouches, and bare facial skin of all pelicans become brightly coloured before the breeding season.

Researchers note that Pelicans will frequent inland waterways but are most known for residing along maritime and coastal zones, where they feed principally on fish in their large throat pouches, diving into the water and catching them at/near the water’s surface.

However, brown pelicans are the only species to dive into the water from 9m (30 ft) above to capture prey.

After catching the prey and a lot of water, Pelicans tip their bill downward to drain the water before swallowing the fish. It is said that as the bird plunges into the water, its throat pouch expands to trap the fish, filling with up to 2.6 gallons of water.

This situation makes them lose their prey most times to other predators.

Igbos call it “okwolo”, Yorubas call it “Ẹyẹ ofú”, Hausa call it “kwasakwasa”

When not feeding or nesting, pelicans rest on sandbars, pilings, jetties, breakwaters, mangrove islets, and offshore rocks.

Pelicans typically begin breeding at ages three to five, but some breed after one or two years. Pelicans usually live for more than a decade, but only three individuals have been known to live more than 20 years, reaching 31, 37 and 43 years of age.

During breeding, the male selects a site on the ground or in an exposed treetop and performs head-swaying displays to attract a female. The female builds the nest in 7-10 days as the male gathers progressively smaller sticks for her. The female lays 3 large eggs. The eggs are incubated dutifully by both parents, who use their feet to keep them warm.

Pelicans play an important ecological role in food chains, consuming primarily fish and invertebrates, and as well some small vertebrates. South American sea lions and unidentified large sharks have been observed to prey on adult brown pelicans by seizing them from beneath while the birds are sitting on ocean waters.

Their unique forms and behaviors, graceful swimming and flying also adds to the beauty of nature.

Why the Pelican bird is both brown and white

Once upon a time there was flood in an ancient community so the pelican made a canoe to help rescue drowning people

It is said that, in the process, the pelican fell in love with a woman and decided to save her, but she and her friends tricked him and escaped. Then, the pelican was a brown bird.

The pelican consequently began preparing to go to war against these women by daubing himself with white clay as war paint.

Before he had finished, another pelican, on seeing such a strange piebald creature, killed him with its beak. Since then, pelicans have been brown and white.


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