The “Swoop and Dive” – A Pelican Snags His Lunch

Small things amuse me.  They just do.

Today, my wife and I were finishing our morning walk along Midnight Pass, when she suggested that we take a short detour to Blind Pass Lagoon.  There is a public dock behind Turtle Beach Pavilion that provides a great view of this sleepy body of water:

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Blind Pass Lagoon, as seen from the public dock behind Turtle Beach Pavilion.

When the water is warm enough, we have seen manatee feeding and generally hanging out in this area.  Today’s visit didn’t appear to be particularly promising, as we only spotted a single Brown Pelican swimming close by.  It didn’t stay quiet for long.  A unique drama was about to unfold.

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The star of the show: a Brown Pelican swimming near the public dock.

Almost immediately upon arriving at the dock, my wife noticed thousands of tiny bait fish schooling all around.  When the density of these small fish is high enough, you can actually hear them swarming, as they give off soft popping sounds when they break the surface of the water.  Given the proximity of the hungry pelican, we knew this wasn’t going to end well for the poor fish.

What happened next is highly choreographed (and extremely funny to watch).  The pelican clearly knew the drill very well, and followed a well-rehearsed script.  He was completely oblivious to our presence a mere few feet away, so we had a front-row seat.  Here is one (of several) videos that we took today, all showing essentially the same thing:

Pelican streaking down the runway, scarfing lunch in the process.

In case you missed something, here are the detailed steps:

  1. Taxi to start of runway, just beyond the end of the boat dock
  2. Accelerate down runway parallel to dock at Warp Factor 7 or higher
  3. Dive and gulp a throatful of fish-laden water
  4. Wiggle tail feathers in satisfaction for a successful hunt
  5. Drain excess water from throat pouch
  6. Raise head to horizontal orientation and swallow fish
  7. Taxi back to start of runway and repeat

You can be forgiven for missing Step 4.  I didn’t see it at first, but he did it every time.  At first, I thought he might be swishing water from his tail feathers to dry them out after the dive into the water.  However, he didn’t go through this exercise with other feathers that got even wetter.  I now believe that it’s an avian “pat on the back” for a great job.

I have to admit that I could’ve watched this all day.  It was priceless.  The hapless fish never knew what hit them.  As I said above, small things do amuse me.   ØØØ

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