Where Do Pelicans Live?

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Pelicans live on almost all continents near coast lines, where they can feed on fresh water and salt water fish. Look for pelicans near bay areas with advice from a science teacher in this free video on animal habitats.

Part of the Video Series: Animal Habitats
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Video Transcript

My uncle used to recite this poem to me when I was young: There is a bird named a pelican, whose beak can hold more than his belly can. Well a pelicans beak is certainly its most distinguishing feature. I'm Janice Creneti. I've been teaching animal science and environmental science for twenty years, and I'm here to answer the question "Where do pelicans live?" Well pelicans are a bird that live all over the world. In fact they're found on all continents, except Antarctica. It's really just too cold for them up there. Pelicans are most common in warmer regions, and they're usually found along coast lines, as they predominately feed off of fresh water fish, of salt water fish, although they can also be found in fresh water areas and certainly very common in bays. Here in Florida we see two species of pelican over the course of the year. The most common is the brown pelican. Brown pelicans are a little bit smaller and they're known for hunting as individuals. They're likely to fly along the water and then dive down and catch a fish, and they use that large pouch that kind of stretches out almost like a plastic bag to hold that fish. You see a pelican can't actually fly and swallow at the same time because in order for it to be able to swallow it has to land on the ground and lift its head up and swallow the fish head first.Otherwise the fish can get caught causing the pelican to suffocate. The other species of pelican that we see for part of the year here in Florida is called the white pelican. These are enormous birds with a wing span of up to ten feet, and a beak that can reach almost two feet long. Now the white pelicans actually come and visit us. They actually live in the Rocky Mountains in the summer time and come to see us in the winter when they need a break from that cold weather. White pelicans are a little bit different from brown pelicans in the way they hunt. White pelicans actually hunt as a group. They'll swim as a flock and herd the fish toward shore, and then everybody can jump on the fish at once. An interesting fact I learned from a wildlife rehabilitator is that brown pelicans, when they live with white pelicans, will learn to hunt in groups. And white pelicans, when they live with brown pelicans, will learn to hunt individually. Beautiful, fascinating birds that occur in most places around the world in your coastal regions. I'm Janice Creneti, and this is "Where do pelicans live?"


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