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Brown Pelican

The Brown Pelican is among Florida’s largest resident birds and is intimately associated with coastal waters where it regularly dives for fish from heights of up to about 60 feet. A Brown Pelican obviously has good vision and -- in spite of a sometimes awkward looking appearance – success in its dives for food. It doesn’t dive deep, but flies well above the water and then dives headfirst with its neck extended and wings held up and back to capture fish spotted near the surface. Once in the water with its bill open, its throat “net” expands as a result of its movements and associated water pressure, bending bones of the lower jaw to open its net and capture the targeted fish. When it stops forward motion, jaw bones return to their relaxed position and the upper bill “becomes a lid”, trapping the fish. Without the pressure created by the dive, water flows out between the upper and lower bill and the pelican swallows its catch. The big, clumsy-looking Brown Pelican is well equipped with tools of its trade.