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Pelican

Birds Guide

Pelican

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Pelican
Pink-backed Pelicans (Pelecanus rufescens).
 
Pink-backed Pelicans (Pelecanus rufescens).
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
 
Phylum: Chordata
 
Class: Aves
 
Order: Pelecaniformes
 
Family: Pelecanidae
Rafinesque, 1815
Genus: Pelecanus
Linnaeus, 1758
Species
Pelecanus occidentalis
Pelecanus thagus
Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
Pelecanus onocrotalus
Pelecanus crispus
Pelecanus rufescens
Pelecanus philippensis
Pelecanus conspicillatus

A pelican is any of several very large water birds with a distinctive pouch under the beak belonging to the bird family Pelecanidae. Along with the darters, cormorants, gannets, boobies, frigatebirds, and tropicbirds, it makes up the order Pelecaniformes. Like other birds in that group, pelicans have all four toes webbed (they are totipalmate). Modern pelicans are found on all continents except Antarctica. They are birds of inland and coastal waters and are absent from polar regions, the deep ocean, oceanic islands, and inland South America.

Pelicans can grow to a wingspan of three meters and weigh 13 kilograms, males being a little larger than females and having a longer bill.

Pelicans have two primary ways of feeding:

  • Group fishing: used by white pelicans all over the world. They will form a line to chase schools of small fish into shallow water, and then simply scoop them up. Large fish are caught with the bill-tip, then tossed up in the air to be caught and slid into the gullet head first.
  • Plunge-diving: used almost exclusively by the American Brown Pelican, and rarely by white pelicans like the Peruvian Pelican or the Australian Pelican.

Rarely, pelicans will consume animals other than fish. In one documented case, a pelican swallowed a live pigeon.[1] [2]

Pelicans are gregarious and nest colonially, the male bringing the material, the female heaping it up to form a simple structure. Pairs are monogamous for a single season but the pair bond extends only to the nesting area; mates are independent away from the nest.

Contents

Symbolism

A pelican in her Piety
A pelican in her Piety

In medieval Europe, the pelican was thought to be particularly attentive to her young, to the point of providing her own blood when no other food was available. As a result, the pelican became a symbol of the Passion of Jesus and of the Eucharist. It also became a symbol in bestiaries for self-sacrifice, and was used in heraldry ("a pelican in her piety" or "a pelican vulning (wounding) herself"). Another version of this is that the Pelican used to kill its young and then resurrect them with its blood, this being analogous to the sacrifice of Jesus. Thus the symbol of the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS) is a pelican, and for most of its existence the headquarters of the service was located at Pelican House in Dublin, Ireland.

IBTS Logo
IBTS Logo

For example, the emblems of both Corpus Christi College, Cambridge and Corpus Christi College, Oxford are pelicans, showing its use as a medieval Christian symbol {'Corpus Christi' - 'body of Christ'}.

This legend may have arisen because the pelican used to suffer from a disease that left a red mark on its chest. Alternatively it may be that pelicans look as if they are doing that as they often press their bill into their chest to fully empty their pouch.

The symbol is used today on the Louisiana state flag and Louisiana state seal, as the Brown pelican is the Louisiana state bird.

Systematics

Species

From the fossil record, it is known that pelicans have been around for over 40 million years. Prehistoric genera have been named Protopelicanus and Miopelecanus.

A number of fossil species are also known from the extant genus Pelecanus:

  • Pelecanus alieus (Late Pliocene of Idaho, USA)
  • Pelecanus cadimurka
  • Pelecanus cauleyi
  • Pelecanus gracilis
  • Pelecanus halieus
  • Pelecanus intermedius
  • Pelecanus odessanus
  • Pelecanus schreiberi
  • Pelecanus sivalensis
  • Pelecanus tirarensis

eferences

  1. ^ "Pelican swallows pigeon in park", BBC News, 25 October 2006. Retrieved on 2006-10-25.
  2. ^ YouTube: Pelican Eats a Pigeon. Retrieved on 2006-10-27.

External links


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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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