Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. ‘A wonderful bird is the pelican; his beak can hold more than his belican,’ or so we're told in Tennessee newspaper editor Dixon Lanier Merritt's famous limerick. The brown pelican's beak can be more than a foot long, but it is only the frame for the loose throat skin that becomes the pelican's tool for capturing and carrying its food. When a brown pelican is at rest, its muscular throats can contracts to give the bird a sort of double-chinned appearance. But when it dives into the water in pursuit of the fishes it eats, that throat skin stretches, turning the pelican's throat into a pouch that can hold as much as two-and-a-half gallons of water and fish. The long, slender upper bill serves as a rudder, stabilizing the bird's movements and as a tool to chase fishes into the pouch. The bones of the lower bill bow outward to create a bucket-sized opening to the pouch. With the fish inside, the bones of the lower bill return to the normal shape and the upper bill closes over them to trap the fish inside. To eat its meal, or to fly, the pelican must first drain the water from its pouch. And while draining its pouch, laughing gulls sometimes steal their meal.'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.