Rhea Loudon, who took this video, wrote “I sometimes go down to Cesar Chavez at the end of my workday to take a walk and see what birds are around. I was surprised to see these two white pelicans on the East side moving their bodies and heads in sync. It looked like a dance and it was only as I watched them longer I realized they were feeding. So I took these videos to share with some of my birding friends and thought you might like to see them too.”
Thank you, Rhea, for these lovely images. We don’t see White Pelicans on the North Basin very often, and I’ve never seen a video showing them in this kind of beautiful rhythm. These birds are much bigger than our more common Brown Pelicans. They may weigh twice as much, and spread their wings nine feet wide, almost as far as the American Condor. Both of these birds show the “horn” on their bill, a large flat triangle pointing upward. The horn indicates that they’re in their breeding season. It will disappear once breeding is done. Males and females look identical, except that females tend to be a bit smaller. That would make the bird on the right in the video the male. They don’t plunge dive for food the way Brown Pelicans sometimes do; the video shows their usual feeding method, dipping their bills in the water and scooping up fish, if possible. When a group of several dozen comes together, they may cooperate by forming a circle and driving fish toward shallow water, the easier to grab them.