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NAIROBI PARK DIARY

Special super scoopers

Pelicans are one of the only birds with a pouch under their bill

In Summary

• When fish congregate in the shallows, the pelicans simply scoop them up

Pelican jaw drop
Pelican jaw drop
Image: GARETH JONES

While sitting quietly and relaxing at the Athi dam, a pelican suddenly landed near us. Then proceeded to use its large beak and pouch to find fish in the shallows around the dam.

Having such a large beak and pouch is definitely a big advantage, perhaps it can be called a kind of “super scoop”. God has designed so many creatures with very particular or even peculiar methods of catching their next meal.

The pelican suddenly seemingly decided that the “super scoop” success ratio in that section of the Athi dam shoreline was not worth the effort. So the pelican took-off and landed a short distance away to continue looking for fishy snacks.

Two species seasonally visit the Nairobi National Park namely the great white pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus) and the smaller pink-backed pelican (Pelecanus rufescens). Mostly seen at the larger dams.

It is easy to identify pelicans, because they are one of the only birds with a pouch under their bill. Some people mistakenly believe that the pelican actually stores fish & food in its large gular pouch. This is incorrect, the gular pouch is like a kind of a net-trap to catch prey, before draining off the water and swallowing the prey whole. Pelican wingspan can range up to 3.6 meters and they are splendid fliers.

Pelicans mostly eat fish exclusively, but they also eat lizards, frogs and crabs. Many pelicans fish by swimming in groups, forming lines or “U” shapes to drive fish into shallow water by beating their wings on the surface.

When fish congregate in the shallows, the pelicans simply scoop them up. I hope that your time waiting at the water will be restful and be like a “soul tonic”. I believe that God has also created nature for mankind to enjoy.

You never know, you might also enjoy seeing some pelicans and then hopefully see them using their large beak and pouch combination to be “special super scoopers”.