Pausing to Ponder Pelicans at Netarts Bay  

image by the author

We’ve had a bit of a heatwave here in Oregon this past July. Temps hovered in the high 90s to 100 degrees for over a week. Even though I had AC installed in the house as a result of the catastrophic heat dome a year ago in June, Raymond and I were feeling a bit housebound. For a reprieve from the heat we headed out to Netarts Bay on the coast to kayak for the day.

Coincidentally, also seeking the bay’s refuge was a population of brown pelicans who were aerial feeding- quite a sight. Watching them was the highlight of my day. This poem came to me shortly thereafter.

Pausing to Ponder Pelicans

Pelicans perilously

plunge down

parallel to sky

perpendicular to water

seeking prey

for their pouches


They pierce the bay

with such power

splashes blossom

upon its glassy surface


Below they snatch fish,

then rise victorious,

gulp their catch from gullets

drops of ocean trailing from their wingtips


In a kayak parallel to water

perpendicular to sky

I pause to ponder

this predator’s perfunctory

but pleasing performance

It's such a pleasure

to be passionate about

pelicans

The following facts about how brown pelicans hunt are from an article in Mental Floss Magazine:

“The brown pelican is a keen-eyed predator that can spot a fish swimming under the ocean’s surface even while flying 60 feet above. Its bigger cousin, the Peruvian pelican, also has great vision. Once a target has been spotted from above, the pelicans plunge into the sea bill-first at high speeds—and often from a height of several stories. When they collide with the prey, the impact force usually stuns the victim and it’s then scooped up in the gular pouch.

It’s a dangerous stunt, but pelicans have numerous adaptations that keep them from injuring themselves when they smack into the water. To keep their neck vertebrae from getting broken, they stiffen the surrounding muscles as they dive; by throwing their wings straight backwards, pelicans can avoid fracturing any of the bones in the appendages on the unforgiving waves. Air sacs under the skin around their neck and breast area inflate before the bird hits the water’s surface, and the gular pouch behaves like an airbag: the instant a bird’s jaws are thrown open under the water, its forward momentum is slowed. Good form takes practice. Young brown and Peruvian pelicans struggle with their marksmanship at first, but over time, they get better at successfully dive-bombing fish.

Most pelicans don’t dive bomb their prey; they scoop it up while treading along on the water’s surface. To increase their chances of success, the birds occasionally form hunting parties, gathering in a U-shape and beating their wings on the water to corral fish into a tight cluster—or drive them into the shallows.”

I’ve witnessed white pelicans group feeding- equally fascinating!

Check out my other blog about sustainable living at onesweetearth.blog

9 thoughts on “Pausing to Ponder Pelicans at Netarts Bay  

    1. The fact that they’re so odd and goofy does make them extremely endearing to me. That poem was very fun to write, in fact I am still coming up with funny alliterations for pelican!

      Liked by 1 person

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