Perverse exercise for the growing pelican

Is it possible that pelicans ( routinely use a benign form of family abuse to train the growth of their super-light skeletons and air-sacs (

At first sight, it might seem that

  • the infants of pelicans, like other altricial birds, beg vigorously from their parents to demonstrate their fitness to be fed, and
  • this is more conspicuous than in other birds, simply because of the sheer size of pelicans.

However, the situation is odder than this.

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Please consider the Australian pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus,

Juveniles, after and not before being fed, convulse in what looks like a mad rage, throwing themselves around for a minute, and then collapsing to the ground, before snapping out of it - as if nothing has happened - and settling down to their normal snooze.

Parents of the African white pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus, seize their half-grown juveniles, and shake them brutally, like a terrier killing a rat, before feeding them.

Later, as if to prove that this is not punishment, the workout becomes self-inflicted as the nearly-fledged juvenile of the African white pelican struggles to withdraw its head from its parent's throat. This is an excruciating ritual to watch, because the beak seems to jam, half-open, in the parent's stomach, and both individuals risk being flailed like rag dolls.

The violence of these fits seems at odds with

  • the intricacy of the body of pelicans, and
  • the touchingly delicate use of the beak-tip to feed the newly-hatched infant.

Pelicans are among the lightest of living birds for their bulk ( Consequently, their bones need to have particular resilience.

The hectic experiences of the juveniles of pelicans may therefore be a method of strengthening their growing skeletons and membrane-bound air-sacs.

Posted on July 05, 2023 04:55 AM by milewski milewski


Posted by milewski about 1 year ago
Posted by milewski about 1 year ago
Posted by milewski about 1 year ago

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