How Do Pelicans Survive Their Death-Defying Dives? | Deep Look

by birtanpublished on September 19, 2020

hi over the water off the California coast riding the air on eight feet of wings a brown pelican spots its target below they have a pretty effective way to catch that fish first they take aim bank

Left then dive downward at 40 miles an hour bullseye but one mistake and they could wind up with a broken wing a snapped neck even blind so how does this massive bird survive a 40-foot drop onto rock-hard water a big part of it is just

Good form see how the wings shoot back right before impact that's safeguards the delicate bones there at the same instant powerful muscles tense around the spine keeping the bird from snapping its neck while

Sheaths called nictitating membranes slide over the eyes like a pair of swim goggles but most of the credit goes to that magnificent sword shaped bill it's contoured to slice into the surface at high speed with almost no drag pelicans

Are surface hunters not deep divers when they hit the water they also hit the brakes reaching with their necks to snag fish they slow down thanks to a built-in life vest a special network of air sacs under the skin around their neck and

Belly even in their bones when it plummets the Pelican takes a deep breath and air rushes into those tiny caverns called pneumatic foramina that air cushions the impact and makes them flow and this bird comes equipped with

Another flotation device meet the gular pouch see how it pops open like a parachute that also helps slow the bird down it's made of super stretchy skin reinforced with collagen fibers that keep it from breaking pretty

Handy fishing net – thanks to an extra flexible jaw that can open sideways not just up and down a pelicans pouch holds much more than its belly can about 3 gallons of water which has to be squeezed out before the big gulp

The whole routine takes practice these young ones have got some room for improvement but pelicans have been making it work for an incredibly long time this fossil is 30 million years old and it's almost identical to the

Aerodynamic high divers that you see living today this Pelican looks more red than brown right that's a sign that it's breeding season which for California pelicans is in the winter that's when they get gussied up and head south to

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