P1000: Sixteen seconds of seldom-seen Pelican behaviour

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Roof Rack Junior Member • Posts: 41
P1000: Sixteen seconds of seldom-seen Pelican behaviour

Start: A mature aged Australian Pelican ((Pelecanus conspicillatus) sleeps perched on the edge of a derelict rowboat. I was about 20 metres away onshore. They are big birds, the largest of the eight known pelican species. To become a compact, easily balanced body, it has rotated its long neck 180 degrees, and buried its (50 cm) long bill along its spine under its back feathers. Do not disturb, dead to the world you might think. Not so.

11 seconds: The bird has become fully alert, possibly because of my shutter noise, and concentrates its gaze on me. The opened bill is not a threat; more likely it is a recognition by the bird that while it had dozed, the remnants of its last meal had assumed the character of a vulture’s crutch, so a cleaning was needed. Note the thinness of the upper mandible of the beak along with its prominent hook. Many a selfie taker teasing a habituated pelican by encouraging it to swallow his arm while still holding a fish, has discovered it is sufficiently sharp to require stitches to treat the resulting wound.

13 seconds: The cleaning process continues with the pelican pushing its long flexible neck upwards while stretching the bill pouch over it to empty out any solid remnants from its last fishing. In detail, the structure of the bill pouch is surprisingly sensitive and delicate. The pouch is deeply ribbed and heavily supplied with blood vessels and nerve endings, while being just a pouch slung between two thin mandibles.

16 seconds: The cleaning process concludes with the bill pouch maximally stretched and with a vigorous shaking of the head. This pelican resumed its initial sleeping position within about 20 seconds of deciding that its bill pouch was now sufficiently clean.

I have watched and swum with pelicans since my country chilhodd 70 years ago and had never seen the turning the bill pouch inside-out behaviour before, nor had any of my Tarzan-imitating urchin friends. It took the purchase of my P1000 to capture it, along with a remarkably cooperative pelican

As school children we marvelled at the sight of big V-shaped flights of pelicans going somewhere way out bush, to that mythical place ‘where the Crow flies backwards’ (to keep the dust out of their eyes) and the pelican builds her nest’. We could all recite, (and get in a real swear), this limerick (attributed to Edward Lear).

A wonderful bird is the Pelican.
His beak can hold more than his belly can.
He can hold in his beak
Enough food for a week!
But I'll be darned if I know how the hellican?

Nikon Coolpix P1000
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