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North Dakota Outdoors - Pelicans
This is the ugly duckling story, to the nth degree. Few birds are more
stately -- more elegant in flight -- than the white pelican. There's something
impossible-seeming, about the ability of that heavy-looking body to stay
in the air with such effortless grace ...
That is, the adult bird.
As a child, the white pelican is -- well, homely. And NOT graceful.
Some birdlings run with grace and light feet. The babypelican -- flops
and staggers. And leans against its buddies, just to stay upright.
The route to adulthood is not easy. Nature is sometimes harsh in its survival
strategies. Most pelican nests have two eggs. The hatchlings fight -- almost
always, one sibling kills its mate. Harsh. Yet it assures that the chick
that survives is hardy; a survivor.
And -- once that stage is passed -- the chicks, getting their first feathers,
lose their fighting instincts and develop social bonds. They group together
in "pods" of up to 100 adolescents. And then, by Fall nearly
grown, they fly.
Chase Lake, between Jamestown and Bismarck, is the largest nesting
colony of white pelicans in the nation. We will have over 20,000 pelicans
in the area. There will be 18,000 breding pairs and several thousand non-breeding
Pelicans are a very egalitatian bird. It's difficult to tell males and
females apart. Both parents incubate the eggs. Both mother and fther bring
bits of fish and salamander to the young.
There are 10,000 nests and each mother and father know just which nest nest
is theirs, which youngests to return to. How? We have no idea. It's part
of the wonder and mystery of nature. By gazing on the wonder of Nature
-- we gaze ont he wonder of our own being, as well.
This is Lex Hames, out in the great North Dakota outdoors.
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