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A Little Kleptoparasitism

brown pelican

 

The fun thing about Florida is you can see both American white pelicans and brown pelicans (the above bird). This bird was hanging out near a boat launch in Titusville. Some of the brown pelicans can be quite “tame” around there. ¬†And I’ve heard different theories that some brown pelicans learn to beg from people, may just be ill or are almost completely blind from cornea damage sustained from their spectacular dives into the water for fish. I can’t seem to find any articles to support that but with a pelican’s natural ability to barf on you when stress, I can’t imagine a ton of people wanting to line up and study that.

brown pelican laughing gull

 

This bird did some half-hearded dives, not from very high up, but at one point the brown pelican appeared to have a fish and a laughing gull was ready to steal it. Certain species of gulls and terns will try to steal food from pelicans as they bring their bills up out from the surface and pour out the water from their gular pouch (the baggy part of the pelican bill). This is called kleptoparasitism–fun word. Laughing gulls who are so adept at grabbing oyster crackers in midair as people toss them are also very adept as hovering or even landing on a pelican to steal their catch.

brown pelican head down

This pelican was wise to the kleptoparasitism routine and kept its bill in the water until the gull got bored and moved on.

head down

“Is the laughing gull finally gone?”

brown pelican gulp

“Finally, I can swallow my fish in peace.”

 

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