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Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)

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How Brown Pelicans Dive

Brown Pelicans fly just above the surface of the water. They circle high, then diving headfirst, plunge under water to catch fish. But doesn't that hurt? Several adaptations protect pelicans as they dive. First, they have air sacs beneath the skin on their breasts, which act as cushions. Watch a... read more »

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Brown Pelicans - What We're Learning

During the winter of 2009-2010, thousands of Brown Pelicans washed ashore on Pacific beaches, wet, cold, starving. Fierce storms, thought to be more frequent because of global climate change, probably made it difficult for the birds to feed. And storm-water runoff washed oil and pollutants into... read more »

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Limerick Day

May 12 is Limerick Day, the birthday of Edward Lear, author of nonsense verse and limericks. In honor of the day, a limerick written by Dixon Lanier Merritt in 1910: A wonderful bird is the pelican. His bill will hold more than his belican. He can take in his beak, Food enough for a week, I'm... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  humor

Gulf Oil Spill - One Year Later

Sound recordist and photographer, Gerrit Vyn, went with a crew from the Cornell Lab to film and photograph birds in the Gulf of Mexico right after the Deep Horizon oil spill in April 2010. They visited the marshes and the barrier islands that host amazing concentrations of pelicans and terns and... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  migration

Pelicans Go Fishing

Unlike Brown Pelicans, which dive from above to capture fish, White Pelicans feed by forming a group. They swim in a line, and—while herding a school of fish—all dip their heads at once. The pelican's broad bill spreads its huge pouch, as the bird pushes through the water. As each bird lifts its... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  ecology

Sir Walter Raleigh's Bird Book

When Sir Walter Raleigh wanted to tempt English settlers to the new lands of Virginia, he planned a novel marketing technique: a bird book. He commissioned Thomas Harriot and John White to document the birds on an island in present-day North Carolina. Harriot, a linguist, recorded the names of... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history

The Pelicans of Castle Pinckney

Originally built as a fortress and military storehouse, Castle Pinckney in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, bore witness to the first shots of the Civil War. But today — just outside the crumbling walls that once served as a prisoner-of-war camp — anywhere from half a dozen to hundreds of Brown... read more »

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Topics & Themes:  history
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