Pick your Pelican: White or Brown

Pick your Pelican: White or Brown

You know by now that I really like shorebirds and waders. Well, I like warblers and songbirds as well, but they are harder to find and photograph. And, to tell the truth, they don't do much. They perch and sing and eat bugs, but that is about it. Shorebirds interact with other birds; they dive, hunt, splash and even squabble. Of all the birds at the shore,  Pelicans are the best photographic subjects; they are big and slow and comical.

Oh, these photos were taken over two trips to Texas City Dike. Some were taken with the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 and some with a borrowed Sony A700 with 70-300mm f/4.5 - 5.6 lens. The Sony RX10 I was using last month was returned; nice camera but not for birds.

White Pelican coming in for a landing Panasonic Lumix FZ200 ISO 100 1/1000 at f/4.0, focal length 443.0mm. Cropped for composition

White Pelican coming in for a landing

Panasonic Lumix FZ200 ISO 100 1/1000 at f/4.0, focal length 443.0mm. Cropped for composition

The White Pelicans have started showing up in the area in large numbers. I have seen a lot at Texas City Dike, there are some at Storey Park and even some out at another reservoir along Hwy 6. They don't dive like the Brown Pelicans do, but practice cooperative fishing. They form circles and herd fish into the middle space. Cormorants and Gulls hang around the outside edge in hopes of getting some escapees. Usually, these circles are too far way to get a good photograph for evidence, so you have to take my word for it.

White Pelican as a lump Panasonic Lumix FZ200 ISO 100 1/1600 at f/4.0, focal length 1200mm. Cropped for composition

White Pelican as a lump

Panasonic Lumix FZ200 ISO 100 1/1600 at f/4.0, focal length 1200mm. Cropped for composition

But, even the White Pelicans sometimes just hunker down and pretend to be a bump on a log. They are absolutely huge compared to our Brown Pelicans. White Pelicans have the second largest wingspread of any North American bird, second only to the California Condor. Body weight can range between 9.2 and 30 lb (4.2 and 14 kg), although typically these birds average between 11 and 20 lb (5.0 and 9.1 kg).

During breeding season, they develop a horn on the upper part of the bill, the skin around the eyes turns orange, as well as the bill and the feet. Signs of breeding plumage are beginning to show now in late December. White Pelicans don't breed in this area, but there is an established breeding area on South Bird Island, near South Padre Island. Those areas are off-limits during breeding season, of course.

"Olivia was finding it difficult to get airborne after celebrating the holidays"  SonyA700 ISO 1000 1/1250at f/5.6, focal length 300.0mm. Cropped for composition

"Olivia was finding it difficult to get airborne after celebrating the holidays" 

SonyA700 ISO 1000 1/1250at f/5.6, focal length 300.0mm. Cropped for composition

All pelicans are fun to watch. They are so big and seem to notice you as another big ... live object... in their sphere. The one above looked like it was struggling to take off. I posted it on Instagram in a wonderful site devoted to funny animals and captions and got a feature.

Adult Brown Pelican pulls rank on juvenile

Adult Brown Pelican pulls rank on juvenile

The Brown Pelicans are year round residents on the Texas coast, as well as the State Bird of our neighbor to the East, Louisiana. This guy, the one coming in for a landing, has a huge fish head stuck in his throat. Later he went over to the shore and dumped it out in the water and then scooped it up again.

Pelican tug of war SonyA700 ISO 1000 1/1250 at f/5.6 focal length 300.0mm. Cropped for composition

Pelican tug of war

SonyA700 ISO 1000 1/1250 at f/5.6 focal length 300.0mm. Cropped for composition

Getting dinner is just part of the task; you have to keep it from the others. The squabbles are fun to watch but it is not a game for these guys; they have to eat to survive.

A little game of dominance. Will the adult on the left win or the youngster on the right? SonyA700 ISO 1000 1/1250 at f/5.6 focal length 450.0mm. Cropped for composition

A little game of dominance. Will the adult on the left win or the youngster on the right?

SonyA700 ISO 1000 1/1250 at f/5.6 focal length 450.0mm. Cropped for composition

The adults and juveniles are very competitive. The browner youngster is working hard to take the fish from the adult. This was taken at Texas City Dike near a boat ramp where the fishermen clean their catch. Sometimes they deliberately throw the trimmings in the air for a free-for-all.

Brown Pelican portrait Panasonic Lumix FZ200 ISO 100 1/1600 at f/4.5 focal length 1200.0mm.

Brown Pelican portrait

Panasonic Lumix FZ200 ISO 100 1/1600 at f/4.5 focal length 1200.0mm.

The Brown Pelicans are also starting to show a hint of breeding plumage. Their heads are turning yellow and soon there will be a brown stripe down the back of their necks. Then the red around the pouch will appear. They are really handsome birds.

Sneaky kitteh in the rocks Panasonic Lumix FZ200 ISO 100 1/400 at f/4.0 focal length 225.0mm. Cropped for composition

Sneaky kitteh in the rocks

Panasonic Lumix FZ200 ISO 100 1/400 at f/4.0 focal length 225.0mm. Cropped for composition

And look here! Another wild kitteh! I got some zoomed in close ups, and this cat is in pretty good shape, but I wanted to show you the whole picture. The refineries in the background are part of the Texas City complex and port. It is the 3rd largest port in Texas.

December sky SonyA700 ISO 1000 1/800 at f/5.0 focal length 112.0mm. Cropped for composition

December sky

SonyA700 ISO 1000 1/800 at f/5.0 focal length 112.0mm. Cropped for composition

And the end of a successful birding day. This was taken from the truck window heading home on I-45. No, silly, I wasn't driving! Most of the shots had cars and power lines, but this one just has drama.

So, what do you think of Pelicans? Do you think it is a more interesting state bird than the Mockingbird? Have you ever taken a photo while driving? or riding in a car?

Let me know in the comments. Click on the bitty balloon and sign in as a Guest with a fake name or your real one. I would love to hear from you.

Update: The comments seem to be working now for IE, Firefox and Chrome. No icons show up on my iPad. At least that is better than before.

 

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