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jerry jackson
Photographed by Bette Jackson

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Source: Brown Pelicans 4

Length of Segment: 00:01:15

Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Unlike ducks, which have only their three forward facing toes joined by webs, brown pelicans have all their toes joined by webs. In the water, the pelican’s strong legs and extensively webbed feet provide tremendous power and agility that aid in capturing fish. The brown pelican's six foot wing span seems to get in the way as birds jostle for position on a dock, but in flight it allows the pelican to glide with little effort just above the waves. Brown pelicans dive from as high as 60 feet, pulling their wings close to the body as rudders to guide their descent, then holding them up as they hit the water with tremendous force, thus, keeping them out of the way of their fishing efforts. A brown pelican's dive may seem to be a belly-flop because it sends up a spray of water, but it hits the water head-first with its neck extended and its feet pulled forward. Its breast takes the brunt of impact, but beneath the pelican's breast skin is a special shock-absorbing layer of fat. As it hits the water, its pouch opens as a net and its feet push back, quickly propelling the pelican deeper in pursuit of its 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.

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