During the summer months, brown pelicans migrate north from their breeding grounds in southern California and Mexico to roost in the Monterey Bay area.
Known as the “bird whose beak can hold more than its belly can”, the brown pelican is one of the largest and most magnificent seabirds on the Pacific Coast.
Pelicans are a familiar sight of a summer day at the beach, diving headfirst, plummeting up to 60 feet down until crashing into the surf. This force of the crash is cushioned by some special adaptations: a pouch that balloons like a parachute, and by air sacs located under a pelican’s skin that help it stay afloat.
A pelican’s pouch is quite unusual looking and stands out as its signature characteristic. It is this pouch that serves as an important tool for pelicans, as it gives them a distinct advantage over other creatures that are competing for fish in the sea, including sea lions, gulls, grebes, sharks, humans, and many others.
When diving, at the moment of impact, a pelican uses this pouch to scoop up fish or crustaceans. It will then tip the front of its bill down to let excess water stream out. In this way the pouch functions as an expandable net, allowing pelicans to be highly skilled and extremely efficient fisherman.
Brown pelicans are a federally listed endangered species. They were placed on the endangered species list during the 1970’s after a widely used pesticide called DDT had nearly wiped the entire species out.
For more information call Native Animal Rescue at (831) 462-0726.