Pelican Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Pelicans are easy to identify because of the big pouch that hangs from their long bill. Learn how pelicans use this unique feature to catch their food and other facts about these large water birds.

Understanding Pelicans

Which type of bird uses its own special net to fish? If you guessed the pelican, you're right!

Pelicans are big birds with long bills that are hooked at the tip. Large pouches of skin hang down from their bills, and they use these pouches to scoop up fish from the water.

Pelicans have pouches that hang down from their bills.

Their color varies between species, so you might see a white pelican or a grayish-brown pelican. They have short legs, so they waddle when they walk. Pelicans also have webbing between their toes that acts like flippers in the water. This makes them good swimmers.

Pelicans are good flyers once they're in the air, but lifting their big bodies off the ground is hard. The great white pelican, which is the biggest pelican, can weigh 20 to 33 pounds. To get in the air, pelicans must beat their long wings as they run over the water until they have enough speed to take off.

A pelican's wingspan can be more than six and a half feet long, which makes their wings as wide as a pro basketball player is tall!

Pelicans have big wings.

Where Do Pelicans Live?

Pelicans can be found in many parts of the world, but you won't find one in Antarctica. Pelicans like warmer areas, so they stay in temperate and tropical areas and avoid very cold places.

Pelicans love the water because that's where their favorite food is found--fish. They are water birds, so you'll find them along the ocean shorelines or lakes.

Pelicans like other pelicans, so they tend to live in groups or flocks. Some species even fish in groups. The pelicans swim together in a u-shaped formation and flap their wings loudly on the surface of the water. This behavior pushes the fish into shallow water where they are easy to scoop up.

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