FEB 24, 2020 4:44 PM PST

These Pelicans Aren't After Fish

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Pelicans are seabirds renowned for their unique bills, which encompass a rather discernible throat pouch that makes capturing and swallowing fish a cinch. But when hungry, pelicans will hunt more than just fish… especially when such rewarding prey necessitates little energy to capture.

These pelicans appear to be bypassing the sea completely, and in their line of sight exists an island chock-full of tens of thousands of a much smaller seabird called the cape gannet. Adult cape gannet are much too large for the pelicans to swallow, and the pelicans know that. For this reason, they target lonely chicks, or at least the ones small enough to eat.

Many of the cape gannet chicks are protected by their larger parents, but a small number are left alone by each of their parents who’ve left to go hunting for fish. The crafty pelicans take advantage of the situation, scooping the smallest of the lonely chicks from the ground and swallowing them whole.

After the pelicans leave the island, they return home and regurgitate partially digested gannet chicks to feed their own brood. We can only imagine how lost the gannet parents must feel after learning that their chicks had been eaten; but such is the cruel circle of life.

Related: These birds mate for life

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
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