Pelicans are among the most distinctive and well-known seabirds on the planet. Their large bodies, long necks, and distinctive throat pouch make them instantly recognizable. They are also some of the largest birds on Earth, weighing between eight and thirty pounds. Pelicans are found throughout the world, though they tend to be more numerous in coastal and semi-tropical areas.
They are most recognizable by their dramatic hunting technique, where they spot surface-schooling fish from a great distance then dive into the water with tremendous force to scoop them up in that huge dipnet of a bill. Their bills can hold up to 13 liters of water, which they squeeze out before swallowing the catch.
In their non-hunting lives, pelicans are known to mate, nest, and feed in groups. They communicate with other birds by clapping their wings and hissing through their gaping bills. Young pelicans are especially vocal as they learn to fly, skimming the water’s surface on their enormous wings while flapping them in unison.
When they are not on the hunt, pelicans loaf around the shoreline and roost in offshore sites during the day. They are diurnal, meaning they fish, hunt, mate, and rest only when it is daylight.
When it is time for a nap, pelicans will either float on the water or perch on a raft on the water’s edge or on a piling or dock. They can also sleep on land, standing up or lying on their belly.