What a Wonderful Bird Is the Pelican… A Puerto Vallarta Feeding Frenzy

Pelican hist water upside down in Puerto Vallarta. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A Brown Pelican executes an amazing upside down dive to catch fish in Puerto Vallarta as three other pelicans join in the feeding frenzy.

 “What a wonderful bird is the pelican, whose bill will hold more than his belican.” Dixon Merritt

I am enamored with pelicans. These large, gregarious birds that appear to have been created by a committee, skim over the ocean in graceful lines, fly in V formations to distant locations, and crash into the ocean with abandon to catch fish.  Most of my pelican viewing has taken place on the coast of California and Oregon but I have also enjoyed their antics in Florida and the Mediterranean.

California Brown Pelican posed for flight. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A Brown Pelican stands on its toes and prepares for flight in California. I called this photo flight-line.

California Brown Pelicans in flight. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Shortly afterwards, I caught this photo of the pelicans, along with seagulls in flight.

Petra the pelican of Mykonos. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

We found this Great White Pelican named Petros holding court on the Greek Island of Mykonos last year on our trip through the Mediterranean.

Petra the Pelican of Mykonos. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Petros the Pelican of Mykonos gives me the eye. “You wouldn’t happen to have a fish would you?”

Over the past three weeks I have been enjoying pelicans in Mexico. Peggy and I were particularly lucky to find a large flock of them involved in a feeding frenzy right next to Puerto Vallarta’s boardwalk, the Malecon. I’ve often watched pelicans make their unique dives from a distance; this was up close and personal– as I hope our photos demonstrate. I was also able to videotape them and captured 15 plus dives in a few seconds. The action was wild!

Pelican drains water from bill in Puerto Vallarta. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

One pelican seems to float in open-billed-amazement as two other pelicans crash into the ocean. Actually pelicans have to drain the water out of their mouths before swallowing their catch, which is what this fellow is doing.

Pelican shows throat pouch in Puerto Vallarta. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Check out the size of the Brown Pelican throat pouch here.

Pelicans prepare to dive in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Hovering in flight, pelicans prepare to dive. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.) The terns, BTW, are hoping to participate in the feast and will happily steal fish from the pelicans.

Brown Pelican in Puerto Vallarta hovers above the water in search of fish. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Preparing for a high dive…

Brown Pelican takes flight off of Banderas Bay in Puerto Vallarta. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Brown Pelican takes off from water.

Brown Pelican appears to walk on water in Puerto Vallarta.

And this guy appears to be walking on water. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Brown Pelican dives toward the water of Banderas Bay in Puerto Vallarta.

A Brown Pelican plunges toward the water. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.) Note the pouch filled with water on the lower right.

Pelican diving for fish in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Plunging into the water. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Brown Pelicans demonstrate different aspects of fishing in Banderas Bay, Puerto Vallarta. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A small portion of the flock, some 17 pelicans, demonstrate various aspects of fishing.

Pelican feeding frenzy in Puerto Vallarta.

Hard to tell who is doing what, here. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.) Liked the graceful tern on the left.

Pelicans feeding in Banderas Bay, Puerto Vallarta Mexico.

Or here. But I really liked the wing action. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Now it is time to put all of the action together in a brief video…

Pelican caught in sunset glow at Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A pelican flies toward its nest at the end of the day.

NEXT BLOG: Having featured the Brown Pelicans of Puerto Vallarta, I’ll move on to feature the Green Iguanas.

17 comments on “What a Wonderful Bird Is the Pelican… A Puerto Vallarta Feeding Frenzy

  1. Kudos to you for getting it right – it is Dixon Merritt and not Ogden Nash who penned the verse! I had it wrong for years, but finally got it right a couple of years ago when I decided to write about our town’s collection of fiberglass pelicans and had to do a little research.

    The photos are just wonderful. We have both brown and white here, but the white are winter residents only. Once they show up, we know that the weather will be turning, no matter what the calendar and thermometer say.

    We rarely see them in such large groups. Perhaps it’s because we have such a fish-rich environment – they can feed over a larger area.

    I didn’t know about having to drain the water from their bills. That could explain why there’s so often a sea gull around a feeding pelican. It’s waiting to see if a fish slips out, too!

    • Seagulls go beyond waiting according to the literature. They peck the top of the head of the pelican and drive it to distraction. Apparently pelicans also steal from other birds. So what goes around comes around. (grin) –Curt

    • I think there must have been plenty for everyone give all the swallowing we saw. And thanks on the video. I am a novice but it has been fun practicing and I love the action of the birds diving. –Curt

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