Pelican, common name for the species of a genus of large birds having a long, large, flattened bill, the upper mandible terminated by a strong hook that curves over the tip of the lower one. Beneath the lower mandible, a great pouch of naked skin is appended. The tongue is short and almost rudimentary. The face and throat are naked, the legs short, and the tail rounded. Pelicans may weigh up to 15 kg (33 lb), and the wings may span up to 3 m (10 ft).
Pelicans are widely distributed over most warm regions, frequenting the shores of seas, lakes, and rivers, and feeding chiefly on fish. Pelicans have two distinctive feeding methods. The brown pelican and the larger Peruvian pelican, often considered a subspecies of the brown pelican, plunge-dive from the air into the water for their prey.
swallowing the fish
Most of the other species feed communally, swimming in an open circle in shallow water and driving the fishes into shallower and shallower water, where they snatch the fishes. The pelicans then store the catch in their pouches, from which they can bring it out at leisure either for their own eating or to feed their young. The birds live in large colonies and build crude nests of twigs and branches near a body of water.
The American white pelican, which breeds in the western part of the United States and Canada and winters east to Florida, is distinguished by its black wing tips. The brown and Peruvian pelicans are the only dark-colored species; their bodies are dark brown and their heads paler. Seasonal changes take place in the color pattern of the head and neck. There are four mostly whitish species with breeding ranges in southern Eurasia and Africa. One species, the Australian pelican, breeds only in Australia but wanders in winter to New Guinea, New Zealand, and other islands in the southwestern Pacific.
Scientific classification: Pelicans make up the genus Pelecanus and the family Pelecanidae, of the order Pelecaniformes. The brown pelican is classified as Pelecanus occidentalis, the Peruvian pelican as Pelecanus occidentalis thagus, the American white pelican as Pelecanus erythorhynchos, and the Australian pelican as Pelecanus conspicillatus.
Text from Microsoft Encarta
swallowing the fish
in the invader grass
the crowded rookery
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