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Pelicans and Other Fishing Birds: Pelecaniformes

Behavior And Reproduction

Most of these birds feed during the day and spend the night in colonies of several different kinds of birds. Except for the gannets, the birds do not migrate long distances. Pelicans and cormorants move around when food gets scarce, but most of the birds stay in the same area year round. Even though many of them depend on the oceans for food, they usually stay near land.

At breeding time, the males and females show their interest in each other with a variety of courtship displays. Tropicbird pairs swoop and glide together in midair. Pelicans bow to each other and sway in unison. Male frigatebirds blow up their pouches to attract females, and boobies dance with their colorful feet.

When the birds have formed pairs, they crowd together at nesting places. They are more likely to nest in trees and bushes than most seabirds. But pelicans and boobies lay their eggs on the ground, and some tropicbirds nest on cliffs. The nesting areas are crowded because the birds all want to be as close as possible to the feeding areas. When fishing is good, they may only spend thirty minutes a day feeding. However they may spend more time flying from their nests to the fishing spots and back to their nests again.

Since Pelecaniformes usually nest so close together, each bird is constantly warning the birds nearby not to come too close. They wave their wings, poke their beaks at each other and make a lot of noise. Most of the birds can only croak or grunt, but tropicbirds have a shrill scream. The birds usually have plenty of time for arguing, because they spend such a short time feeding every day.

The females lay between one and six eggs. The parents take turns sitting on the eggs until they hatch in twenty-three to fifty-seven days. When the chicks hatch, they are naked and helpless. The parents regurgitate, spit up, food into their own mouths, and the chicks eat from their open bills. The young birds may take as long as four months before they learn to fly.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsPelicans and Other Fishing Birds: Pelecaniformes - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Pelecaniformes And People, Conservation Status - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT