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North Dakota Outdoors - Pelicans

7/19/95





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 birds.



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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