Pelican lifts off gracefully from Galapagos Island fish market counter top

Published September 12, 2020 298 Views $3.46 earned

Rumble / Unreal AnimalsPelicans are huge and fascinating birds with impressive wing spans. They are heavy compared with most birds, spending a lot of their time on the surface of the water. Despite weighing up to 3kg (7lb), this brown pelican is a strong flier due to a massive 2m (6 feet) wingspan. But lifting off from a perch or the surface of the water takes great effort and gaining altitude is often a slow process.

Famous for their ability to use small updrafts from the wind on the waves, the pelican glides smoothly along shorelines with what appears to be minimal effort. They also fly upwards and then suddenly turn and dive bomb schools of fish near surface of the ocean. Using their enormous beak pouches, they scoop up water containing small fish and then squeeze the water out of their beaks to leave them with a mouthful of food. It is this unique feature that is most widely thought of when we talk about pelicans.

The pelican's unique adaptation to capture food in this manner is a true wonder of nature. Fossil records show us that birds such as pelicans evolved as long as 30 million years ago in some parts of the world. Here, in the Galapagos Islands, these birds are common sights along almost any shore. Comfortable with humans, they are often seen around docks and piers, swimming areas, and even wandering on inland streets.

This large male is a regular fixture at the fish market on San Cristobal Island in the Galapagos. The animals here have learned that residents and tourists have a healthy respect for the wildlife and that they will not be harmed. Intelligent enough to understand what a fish market is all about, this bright fellow has been greeting the fisherman each morning as they return with their catch. Patiently he waits as the fish are cleaned and sorted. There is always a lineup of sea lions, pelicans, herons, and even marine iguanas and there is usually a fish skin or piece of meat that falls to the floor. Occasionally, an unattended fish becomes a meal for these sneaky birds and they can snatch and swallow a fish faster that a fisherman's hand can prevent it.

While in the Galapagos Islands, a visit to the fish market is always a memorable and fascinating experience.

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