Welcome to Superoceras, a blog about science and natural history, slightly biased towards paleontology and zoology, but inclusive of all sciences. Started in October of 2009, my goal is to communicate scientific knowledge (and the occasional piece of nonsense) in an informative and entertaining manner. Feel free to contact me with questions, comments, concerns, or criticism at superoceras(at)gmail(dot)com, and follow me on Twitter @Superoceras for all that and more in 140 characters or less!

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Seashore Ornithology: The Brown Pelican

One of my favorite shorebirds is by far the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis).  It is small in comparison to the other members of its genus, and it is a fairly common bird in my neck of the woods.  But that makes them no less interesting.  They also have a relatively rich fossil record.  Fossil Pelecanus are known from the Early Oligocene around 30 million years ago, and by that point they were already very like modern forms.

A pair of Pelecanus occidentalis fly above the beach at North Peninsula State Park, Florida.
Brown pelicans are known for diving for their meals, which they catch in large gular pouches attached to their lower bill.  On land, they move about rather clumsily with their large bodies and webbed feet.  But in flight, they are truly magnificent.  Their long broad wings make them brilliant gliders. And when they flock together, which they do more often than not, they are a sight to see as they soar gently above the sand and waves.

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