Brown Pelican: Beak as big as his “bellycan”

There they are – sitting like boats in the harbor, or perched on the harbor pilings, or flying in a single-file group over the water. Even though they are clumsy on land, they are very graceful in flight, and air sacs beneath their skin make them extremely buoyant on water.

This smallest of the eight pelican species is about 4 feet long and weighs about nine pounds. Brown Pelicans live strictly on the coastlines of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans of the western hemisphere. It is a carnivore that lives mainly on fish – which are captured by diving head first into the water (unlike other pelicans, which scoop up fish while swimming on the surface).

Their interesting anatomy centers on a huge, straight bill with an enormous pouch. The pouch can hold three times as much as their stomach and is useful in scooping up and storing prey (which their young feed from). The pouch is also a body cooling device. Blood vessels close to its surface emit excess heat.

Brown Pelicans nest on islands off the coast of Mexico, where two or three chalky-white eggs are laid in a platform-like nest made of sticks and grass. Four or five months are spent on the breeding grounds – feeding the chicks and teaching them that spectacular head-first dive for fish.

Pesticides washed into the water put them on the endangered species list. Fish ingest the chemicals – pelicans ingest the fish – the chemicals intensify as they move up the food chain. This bird is making a valiant comeback effort.

Brown Pelican At rest upon a South Padre Island, Texas bay

At rest upon a South Padre Island, Texas bay

The Coyote: Nature’s Trickster

This is one of nature’s most cunning and most adaptable creatures. While other species have decreased, since the coming of white man, the Coyote has increased. They are so adaptable that they can actually be found in some cities. There are many Indian legends about them and about their tricky ways. Their scientific name (Canis latrans) means “barking dog”.

This intelligent carnivore has a wide range of vocalizations from barks to yelps, which are most heard at dusk, nighttime, or in the early morning. These calls help keep the group together. The tail is also used as body language. Different positions mean different things and a horizontal, bristled tail is a signal of aggression. Coyotes can be told from wolves by their smaller size, and when running they hold their tail down. Their tracks are also different than dogs – their front paw tracks are larger than their hind paw tracks.

They form loose family groups and will pair for several years or even for life. The den is either a burrow or in a rock crevice and its mouth can be from 5 to 30 feet wide. Mating takes place in February to April and after a 60 day gestation, 1 to 19 pups are born. As tremendous reproducers, it’s no wonder that they are so adaptable. The young leave their parents at 7 to 8 months.

Coyotes are opportunistic and will eat almost any flesh, including carrion. Usually solitary hunters, they will occasionally use others to run relays to tire the prey out or to lay in ambush. Other animals, such as Badgers, may unwittingly become victims, as the Coyote often steals their kill from them.

This canine can run up to 30 miles per hour and is a strong swimmer.

(Resting in the snow and allowing my wife a photograph)