I happened to be at the Open Circle Viewpoint, showing a young expert birder the “Owl on the Rocks,” when a Brown Pelican settled in the water not far away from this prime birding spot. Above is a high-speed video clip of the bird’s takeoff in slow motion. (There is no sound track.) The subject matter is the same as my earlier and longer Brown Pelican high-speed video clip, but this bird is closer and the light is horizontal, shortly after sunrise, and illuminates the bottom of the bird’s wing as it passes.
The bird looks easily as big as a 20-lb Thanksgiving turkey, and seems unlikely to get out of the water and into the air. But it only weighs about 7 or 8 lbs, according to Wikipedia, thanks to its hollow bone structure. The video shows that it has enormously long wings and the strength to flap them. The first stroke, starting with the wings vertical, lifts the bird’s body wholly out of the water. Then a couple of splashes with the webbed feet raise it high enough to give the wings more range on the downward stroke, and from then on, the bird’s flight is a study in grace and elegance.