Daily Archives: August 2, 2013

California Brown Pelicans Plunge Diving for Baitfish

Pelicans Diving 7-2012Japanese brush painting.

Pelicans have air sacs under the skin, the breast and undersides of their wings.   The air sacs help keep the pelican remarkably buoyant in the water and may also cushion the impact of the pelican’s body on the water surface when they plunge dive from as high as 60 feet in the air into water to catch fish.  Giant plumes of water give an idea of the force that the pelicans hit the water with.  Also, while diving, a pelican rotates its body ever so slightly to the left. This rotation helps avoid injury to the esophagus and trachea, which are located on the right side of the bird’s neck. Pelicans have also learned that a steep dive angle, between 60 and 90 degrees is safer. Pelicans learn this behavior because adults are better marksmen than young birds.  Pelicans have a sort of stryofoam substance in their bones to protect their bones from breaking from the force of their plunge diving.  It is breath taking to watch a flock of them diving for their dinner.