Pelicans are large aquatic birds best known for their long beak which features a large throat pouch for catching prey. There are 8 species of pelican on the planet and at least one species can be found on every continent apart from Antarctica. They are generally found in warm regions, although some species do travel to cooler regions during breeding. Most species of pelicans are quite large and are among the heaviest of all flying birds. Let’s find out what these interesting birds eat.
What do pelicans eat?
The vast majority of the pelican diet is made up of fish and a pelican is capable of eating a fish up to 30 cm (1 ft) in length. They will also eat amphibians (such as frogs), turtles, crustaceans and even other small birds and bird eggs. They usually catch fish and other aquatic animals near the surface of the water. They scoop up their prey into their throat pouch and they are capable of catching multiple small fish at the same time. Before swallowing their food they must drain their throat pouch of any water, which takes about a minute. Large fish are held in the tip of the bill until the pelican throws it into the air and swallows it whole!
The following is an incredible video of a pelican diving into the water to catch its food:
Did you know?
Pelicans often attract other birds, such as guls, when they are feeding so that they can eat the scraps. Some of these birds are known for trying to steal the food from the pelicans pouch while they are expelling the water!
The Australian pelican is more of a scavenger than other pelican species. On occasions they have been are known for feeding on carcasses and picking through landfill.
It was long thought that the pelican can store food in their throat pouch, but this is now known to be incorrect.