Super Scoopers

American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

This morning I skipped breakfast and got out early, not soon enough to beat the sun, but early enough to catch an amazing show on the North Basin water. Two dozen or more American White Pelicans, unaware that they’re considered pretty rare here, were out in force feeding by their patented scooping method. They rhythmically, even frantically, plunged their huge beaks under water, wide open. They weren’t wasting their time, either. They’d located a school of small fish and they were gorging themselves. At times they foraged wing to wing in a massive heaving pileup where all I could see was churning feathers. The fish underneath must have experienced it as the apocalypse.

American White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

Brown Pelicans weren’t on the scene when I first arrived shortly before 7 a.m., but they soon made an appearance. A dozen and then a dozen more flew in from the west. A few of them joined the bigger birds, copying their scooping technique. But most of them soon peeled off and flew around in circles for a bit before settling on a spot further north where fishing was also favorable. Double-crested Cormorants also somehow got the message and joined in the feeding frenzy. I continue to marvel at the birds’ messaging system. How does one species let the others know about a feeding opportunity?

Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) and Double-crested Cormorant (Nannopterum auritum)

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