|Name: American White Pelican
|Scientific name: Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
|Range: North and Central America
|Habitat: Freshwater locations, Estuaries, and Bays
|Diet in the wild: Fish and crustaceans
|Diet in the zoo: Fish
|Location in the zoo: Penguin Island
are no doubt unmistakable, they are the only white pelicans in North America.
Pelicans have a vertebra in their neck, which prohibits them from ever
raising their face. The white pelican is 60 in. in length and 107
in. in width, one of the largest of the 8 true species of pelicans.
They have a yellowish pouch connected to the lower mandible of the beak
that stretches up to six inches. Their bodies are mostly white, with
black primaries and outer secondaries, which are hidden until the bird
outstretches it's enormous wings. During mating season the male develops
a fibrous plate on the upper part of the beak, this is a unique characteristic
of the white pelican. Also the bill is bright orange during the mating
season. Their feet are orange, and are webbed not only between the
four front toes but also between the second toe and the inwardly directed
back toe. They have an enormous wingspan
of 8 - 9.5 feet. Their legs are orange, and are extremely short.
These pelicans are very fond of company, and they usually stay together in large colonies to bring up their families. Most of the time they can be seen together in groups on feeding trips. These pelicans are found near lakes, salt bays, marshes, and beaches. The bird is found in such states as northern California, western Nevada, Utah, Colorado, northeastern South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota, and occasionally on the central coast of Texas. During winters the pelican is found along the Pacific coast from central California and southern Arizona south along the western lowlands of Mexico to Guatemala and Nicaragua and from Florida and the Gulf states south along the Gulf coast of Mexico to Tabasco and the state of Yucatan. The White Pelican's nest is usually constructed out of sticks, grasses, and reeds built of the ground. Usually an island or an inland lake is chosen. Two to four chalky white eggs are produced, and the incubation period is 1 month. Both parents help in feeding the young, they do this by regurgitating food and the young stick their heads into the parents beak to feed. Adults rarely make any noise, but when they do it is usually a low grunt. However, the young feel the need to squeal, and are very noisy.
Special anatomical, physiological or behavioral adaptations:
Pelicans are naturally very large in size, but in spite of this they can sit high on the water because their bones are full of air and the air sacs in their body are large. Also as a benefit, their large beak and stretchable skin underneath make it easier for them to catch food. The American White Pelican is different from other pelicans, in that it does not drop from great heights to catch its prey, it simply floats along the water and scoops up fish with it's enormous bill. The bill can hold 3 gallons of water, and after the fish have been caught the bill is pointed downward allowing the water to drain, and then the bill is raised and the bird swallows.
about the American white pelican of the Fort Worth Zoo.
There are 8 true species of pelicans.
Many of them are very closely related.
There are three American White Pelicans at the Fort Worth Zoo. I noticed that for the most part they stayed very near one another. They continuously stretched their pouch out over their chest, perhaps cleaning it. When one pelican wanted its own space, it opened up its wings which are 8 - 9.5 feet wide when opened. They didn't seem to care where they went to the bathroom, but then I wouldn't expect that from them. Unfortunately I didn't get to see them eat.
Related Links and Images:
Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia
Zoo-- Information plaque art at Fort Worth Zoo