/pel"i keuhn/, n.
1. any of several large, totipalmate, fish-eating birds of the family Pelecanidae, having a large bill with a distensible pouch.
2. a still or retort with two tubes that leave the body from the neck, curve in opposite directions, and reenter the body through the belly.
[bef. 1000; ME pellican, OE < LL pelicanus, var. of PELECAN < Gk pelekán]

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Any of about eight species constituting the genus Pelecanus (family Pelecanidae), white or brown birds distinguished by a large, elastic throat pouch.

Some species are 70 in. (180 cm) long, have a wingspan of 10 ft (3 m), and weigh up to 30 lbs (13 kg). Most species drive fish into shallow water and, using the pouch as a dip net, scoop them up and immediately swallow them. Pelicans inhabit freshwaters and seacoasts in many parts of the world; they breed in colonies on islands, laying one to four eggs in a stick nest. Chicks thrust their bills down the parent's gullet to obtain regurgitated food.

Brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis).

Norman Tomalin
Bruce Coleman Inc.

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 any of seven or eight species of water birds constituting the family Pelecanidae (order Pelecaniformes), distinguished by their large, elastic throat pouches. Pelicans inhabit lakes, rivers, and seacoasts in many parts of the world. With some species reaching a length of 180 cm (70 inches), having a wingspan of 3 m (10 feet), and weighing up to 13 kg (30 pounds), they are among the largest of living birds.

  Pelicans eat fish, which they catch by using the extensible throat pouch as a dip-net. The pouch is not used to store the fish, which are swallowed immediately. One species, the brown pelican (P. occidentalis), captures fish by a spectacular plunge from the air, but other species swim in formation, driving small schools of fish into shoal water where they are scooped up by the birds.

 Pelicans lay one to four bluish white eggs in a stick nest, and the young hatch in about a month. The young live on regurgitated food obtained by thrusting their bills down the parent's gullet. The young mature at three to four years. Though ungainly on land, pelicans are impressive in flight. They usually travel in small flocks, soaring overhead and often beating their wings in unison. The sexes are similar in appearance, but males are larger.

      The best-known pelicans are the two species called white pelicans: Pelecanus erythrorhynchos of the New World, the North American white pelican, and P. onocrotalus of the Old World, the European white pelican. The smaller, 107–137-centimetre brown pelican (P. occidentalis) of the New World is a coastal species listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Though the brown pelican once bred in enormous colonies, its population declined drastically in the period 1940–70 as a result of DDT and related pesticides. The birds' breeding subsequently improved after DDT was banned.

      Pelicans usually breed in colonies on islands; there may be many small colonies on a single island. The gregarious North American white pelican breeds on islands in lakes in north-central and western North America; all pairs in any colony at any given time are in the same stage of the reproductive cycle. It is migratory, as are some other species. The brown pelican breeds along the tropical and subtropical shores of both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

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Universalium. 2010.

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