National Geographic : 1920 Jun
PELICAN ROOKERY ON WEST ISLAND OF LOBOS DE AFUERA The pelican is the second bird in economic importance among the guano-producers of the Peruvian rainless coast. There aretenspecies of this bird, widely distributed throughout the tropical and temperate regions of the Old and New World. Most species nest incommunities and usually on an island, the nests being rather crudely constructed of earth, gravel, and rubbish. The eggs vary innumber from one tofour. The nesting pelican presents a fascinating subject for speculation: In a colony such as this, where thenests arepacked together almost like eggs in a crate, each practically identical with all the others, how do the parent birds know their ownnestlings? Yet, after atrip tothefeeding grounds, sometimes miles distant, ten thousand birds return and each takes its place without confusion. There isnoevidence ofcommunity re sponsibility in the pelican state. Every pair of birds provides for its own family. When fishing the bird usually flies very close to the surface of the water, and when it sees its quarry itplunges obliquely, holding thebillin such a manner as to scoop the small fish into its enormous pouch. The long bill and neck may be thrust deep beneath thesurface. Having im prisoned the fish, the bird holds the head up and the bill down, to drain off the water.