To escape the New England winter, we went to visit friends in Florida for a week. In Sarasota, lounging on the beach, I watched the brown pelicans, Pelecanus occidentalis, soaring on those astonishing wings (their wingspan is over seven feet, much the same as a bald eagle):
This one is skimming the waves, looking for fish:
The adults have yellow heads:
I was watching the pelicans, but the seagulls were watching them too. The moment this juvenile pelican raised its beak out of the water, pouch full of fish, the seagull flew in and stood on its back.
I’m not sure if they had been aiming for the same fish, and the pelican got there first, or whether the gull was trying to steal its catch. Whichever, it failed, and flew off.
And the victorious pelican swallowed a sizable fish, whose shadow is visible through the pouch.
That ridge across the pelican’s gular pouch is the remnant of the hyoid bone. Interesting trivia factoids: (1) The pouch can hold 3 1/2 gallons of sea water. (2) The pelican has no tongue.