Brown Pelicans – Flying Wonders

Master of Flight

Any time I am near the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean, I love to observe Brown Pelicans … one of God’s amazing flying machines.

The Brown Pelican is a large bird. It is 42 to 54 inches (106 – 137 cm) long, weighs 6 to 12 pounds (2.75 – 5.5 kg) and has a wingspan of 6 to 8.2 feet (1.83 – 2.5 m). Of the eight species of pelicans, the Brown Pelican is actually the smallest.

Brown Pelicans are fantastic flyers. I have seen them gliding low over the water … so low their wingtips brush the waves. They effortlessly glide up and over waves, still remaining only inches above the water’s surface. Many times they can be seen flying in a single file formation (I have seen up to 12 birds flying together), following the lead pelican, with perfect precision that rivals (perhaps surpasses?) the United States Navy’s Blue Angels

Pelicans in Formation

Brown Pelicans are found along the ocean shores, and not on inland lakes, and are the only pelicans that plunge from the air into the water to catch its food. I don’t know of any airplane that can smack into the water like they do and survive! They dive from above and scoop or dip fish into a huge pouch they have on their long, hook tipped beak. After catching the fish, the Brown Pelicans rise to the surface and drain the water from the flexible pouch. Their pouch holds more than their stomachs can … 3 gallons (11.4 l) in the pouch compared to only 1 gallon (3.8 l) in the stomach.

After draining the water from its pouch, the Brown Pelican tips the beak up and swallows the catch. I have often seen sea gulls actually sitting on the backs of Brown Pelicans, waiting for a chance to rob the pelicans of their catch before they get to swallow.

Man invented airplanes, but the idea of flight and flying machines came from the study of birds … God’s airplanes … wonders of flight!

Lanny Johnson

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