40 Interesting Facts About Pelicans

Interesting facts about pelicans provide a great opportunity to learn more about these large birds. Interestingly, their genus is the only one in the pelican family. They are distinguished from other birds primarily by their enormous beak, which helps them hunt fish successfully.

  1. There are currently 8 species of pelicans.
  2. Pelicans inhabit all continents except Antarctica.
  3. The body length of a pelican ranges from 130 to 180 cm, and they can weigh up to 14 kg.
  4. A pelican eats over 1 kg of fish per day. In rare cases, it may hunt other birds (see interesting facts about birds).
  5. The tip of a pelican’s beak, which can reach half a meter in length, is shaped like a hook. At the base of the beak is a throat pouch for catching fish.
  6. Pelicans form pairs, but only for one year.
  7. Pelican feathers get wet quickly, so the bird periodically “wrings” them with its beak.
  8. After catching fish, a pelican filters up to 5 liters of water from its throat pouch.
  9. Interestingly, in Muslim tradition, the pelican is considered a sacred bird. According to legend, during the construction of holy sites in Mecca, pelicans brought stones to the builders in their throat pouches.
  10. Pelicans are generally silent birds, but during the nesting period, they can produce a deep roar.
  11. Did you know that pelicans cannot dive due to their light skeletons and air sacs under their skin? This is why they hunt fish that swim near the surface. However, some American species have learned to dive by plunging from great heights.
  12. In flight, the heavy beak of a pelican forces the bird to curve its neck into an “S” shape. Herons (see interesting facts about herons) do the same.
  13. Pelican chicks are born blind and featherless. They take their first flight 70-75 days after hatching.
  14. In captivity, pelicans live much longer than in the wild. Their lifespan often exceeds 20 years.
  15. Nest building is the female’s task, while the male brings her materials.
  16. Interestingly, pelicans have the largest beak of all birds. It can hold about 3 buckets of fish.
  17. The wingspan of a pelican is approximately 3 meters.
  18. Pelicans are also known for collective hunting. They gather in groups and loudly flap their wings, driving fish into shallow waters.
  19. Curiously, pelicans are among the heaviest flying birds. However, their skeletons make up no more than 10% of their total weight.
  20. Sometimes, pelicans prey on mice or rats (see interesting facts about rats).
  21. Pelicans breathe through their beaks, as they lack nostrils.
  22. There are many cases where several pairs of pelicans have built a common nest.
  23. Pelicans have excellent vision, allowing them to spot fish from high above the water before making their dive.
  24. Despite their large size, pelicans are surprisingly graceful in flight, soaring effortlessly on thermal air currents.
  25. Pelicans are highly social birds, often seen roosting and nesting in large colonies, especially on coastal islands and in mangrove forests.
  26. The pouch beneath a pelican’s beak is elastic and can stretch to accommodate large quantities of fish.
  27. Pelicans have a unique way of cooling themselves down on hot days by fluttering their throat pouches, which increases air circulation and helps dissipate heat.
  28. Some species of pelicans, such as the Australian pelican, engage in spectacular synchronized feeding displays where they work together to herd fish into shallow waters.
  29. Pelicans have a specialized gland near the base of their tail called the uropygial gland, which produces an oily substance that they use to waterproof their feathers.
  30. During courtship displays, pelicans engage in elaborate rituals such as head bobbing, wing flapping, and vocalizations to attract mates.
  31. Pelicans are skilled fliers and are capable of traveling long distances during migration, sometimes covering thousands of kilometers.
  32. The California brown pelican is the smallest of all pelican species, yet it is still an impressive bird with a wingspan of over 2 meters.
  33. Pelicans have a unique hunting technique called plunge-diving, where they dive from heights of up to 30 meters into the water to catch fish.
  34. The breeding plumage of pelicans often includes brightly colored patches on their bills and around their eyes, which they use to attract mates.
  35. Pelicans are opportunistic feeders and will eat a variety of prey besides fish, including crustaceans, amphibians, and even small birds.
  36. Despite their large size, pelicans are surprisingly agile swimmers, using their webbed feet to paddle through the water with ease.
  37. The oldest known pelican fossil dates back over 30 million years, indicating that these birds have been around for a remarkably long time.
  38. Pelicans play an important role in their ecosystems by controlling fish populations and serving as indicators of environmental health.
  39. Some species of pelicans, such as the Dalmatian pelican, have experienced population declines due to habitat loss, pollution, and human disturbance.
  40. Pelicans have been revered and depicted in art and mythology throughout history, symbolizing grace, freedom, and resilience in various cultures around the world.

These additional facts further illustrate the remarkable adaptations, behaviors, and ecological significance of pelicans, shedding light on the diverse and fascinating world of these majestic birds.

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