Big bird, small pond

A weird and wondrous bird was paddling the pond at Indian Riverside Park last Friday, an American White Pelican.

Brown Pelicans are abundant but White Pelicans are seen far less often. They are winter visitors to Florida and in this county usually hang around by Lake Okeechobee. This was the first time I’ve seen one out here by the coast. Maybe the west wind blew him here.

I went after him with my camera. First I had to navigate the White Ibises underfoot.

Also underfoot, a Muscovy duck.

I circled the whole pond, following the pelican, till he came back to near where I first saw him. He and a fisherman were considering each other.

He was dip fishing which is the way White Pelicans get their fish dinner, as opposed to the dramatic dive of the Brown Pelican.

A scoop of scooped up water and fish.

Then the pelican presses its bill against its chest to squeeze out the water, leaving only fish in there, ready for swallowing.

There is something a little swan-like about them, except those beaks… which are 12 to 15 inches long!

The American white pelican rivals the trumpeter swan, with a similar overall length, as the longest bird native to North America. Both very large and plump, it has an overall length of about 50–70 in (130–180 cm), courtesy of the huge beak which measures 11.3–15.2 in (290–390 mm) in males and 10.3–14.2 in (260–360 mm) in females. It has a wingspan of about 95–120 in (240–300 cm). The species also has the second largest average wingspan of any North American bird, after the California condor.

They usually weigh between 11 and 20 pounds. That’s a big bird.

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