Posted by: ktzefr | July 5, 2017

Pelican Watching, St. John, USVI

 

Brown pelican, St. John, US Virgin Islands National Park; Photo:Dylan Fawcett

One day melts into another on St. John in the US Virgin Islands.  Sunny days, trade winds, sporadic showers, night rains.  Donkeys and deer, mongoose and mocking birds.  There is a comfortable sameness, a rhythm to it all.  Hiking trails through the national park never veer too far from a glimpse of the sea, and one cannot look at the sea without catching sight of the pelicans.  I’ve always been awed by the big bird’s skills, but a pelican’s patience is admirable, too.

Brown pelican, St. John, US Virgin Islands National Park; Photo:KFawcett

On a recent trip I spent a long time patiently watching the patience of pelicans.

Brown pelican, St. John, US Virgin Islands National Park; Photo:KFawcett

The birds are awesome in other ways too…

  1.  A pelican can fly high above the water and dive vertically into the ocean when they see a fish.
  2.  The birds have air sacs under the skin that serve as cushions to soften the impact with water.
  3.  Pelicans have existed for at least thirty million years.
  4.  If it looks like the bird is going to miss the fish, it can abort the dive a few millimeters above the water.
  5.  Many young pelicans die trying to master the dangerous skill of diving.
  6.  Pelicans can live for more than 20 years.
  7.  These birds may nest on the ground or in trees.  They usually lay three eggs and both parents      share the 30-day incubation period.
  8.  Adult brown pelicans are beautiful birds, but the first-hatched chicks are rather ugly with reddish brown or purple-black skin.
  9.  Baby pelicans eat by sticking their heads into the parents’ mouths as the big birds regurgitate food.

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