Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Pelican, and the Ballet of the Sea


The Pelican
What an odd bird!   When you see one standing alone, with that big long beak and pouch, those squat little legs with great big flapper feet on the end, and a pretty big body, you think this bird could never fly!   What were they thinking when they invented this guy?

Then one day while you are standing by the river you look up and here is this very odd creature hovering over the water, and then SPLAT he dives head first for a fish that only he can see.   Well the guy hits the water with such a disjointed splash that you are startled and think for sure the poor guy has done some kind of a really bad belly-flop.   Kind of like the belly-flops you managed when you were a kid.   All arms and legs and flap of belly-skin hitting the water - very embarrasing and quite painful!   Well this seems to be what the Pelican has done right in front of your eyes, this could not possibly have been done on purpose, could it?

Just when you were thinking of calling 9-1-1 or whatever the animal equivalent would be, the mighty Pelican pops up to the top of the water like a cork, and seems to be quite calm and not ruffled at all.   Finally you realize that he has just purposely made this awkward and ungraceful dive into the water to catch a fish.  This puts a new light on the spectacle and rather than be embarrased by his splash-head-first-crash-landing, in fact he is quite pleased with himself!

Such is the Pelican, a collection of parts put together in one big bird, who seems to be one of the most ungainly creatures of the sea.  He can have a wing span of 6 - 10 feet, has large webbed toes and some of the longest beaks known in the bird world.   They eat fish, swim well, migrate in the winter along the west coast, and they enjoy being in groups.  You will often see them flying together, sometimes just 2 or 3 birds but sometimes in large groups which form long bird-chains in the sky and over the water.

Clumsy might be the word that comes to mind when you watch a Pelican.  He strolls with a strut, kind of rolling his large body side to side.   He is so odd that he is handsome!   But who could believe this bird could fly, much less be the dancer of the sea?   Yet a ballet is performed by the mighty, awkward, ungainly, and oddly constructed Pelican. 

 See the dance of the Pelican, Part II.  Photos by Green Water Films, and the story of the best ballet you may ever see by Wild Coast Vacations.   Yes, this is the dance of the Pelican, suddenly the most graceful bird of the sea.

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