Pelicans flying in formation

by Carolyn Kraft on 03/26/2011

Pelicans flying in formation

On a recent visit to the Point Vicente Interpretive Center, I had the chance to witness California brown pelicans flying in formation.

Now just to be clear, I’ve seen pelicans fly in a V shaped formation before, but this was different. Usually, pelicans fly by in a V shaped formation, everyone exclaims, “Oh, look! The pelicans are flying in V!” And then the pelicans keep on flying and everyone’s attention shifts to something else.

At the Point Vicente Interpretive Center, the pelicans flew by in a V shaped formation and I got pretty excited because they were relatively close and I could snap a few pictures. In fact, the picture on the left is the first shot I took. Then I put my camera down because I figured that was it. But then another group of pelicans came flying by in a V and then another and another!

Then the pelicans would make a return trip back towards Point Vicente, turn around and start all over again. Now I can’t say for certain it was always the same few groups of birds flying back and forth because let’s be honest, pelicans all look the same, but is sure seemed like the same birds.

Pelicans flying in formation, like mini dive bombers

At one point there were so many pelicans that they looked like mini dive bombers flying towards an unknown target, preparing for attack.

We couldn’t figure out what they were really doing. There was a nice wind that day, so they may have been riding the wind or possibly hunting. Either way it was fun to watch.

If you are ever in need of an ocean wildlife fix, visit the Point Vicente Interpretive Center at the tip of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. This is where the ACS/LA Census volunteers watch for gray whales. You never know what you might see!

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Keith Vrhel M.D. March 27, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Here in San Diego (actually Cardiff-by the Sea) Have seen large numbers of pelicans,the most in twenty years. . Wonder why?

Carolyn Kraft March 29, 2011 at 10:59 am

Good question Keith! During an interview with a pelican expert, he mentioned that pelicans are smart birds and they tend to follow the food. There must be more food to be had near Cardiff by the Sea right now than during previous years. Ocean conditions must be favoring their favorite sardines, which doesn’t surprise me with all the cooler weather we’ve been having in Southern California.

Mark Tiddens April 23, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Yes – a huge number of pelicans this year in Solana Beach! Constant (and constant poop on our windows).

Carolyn Kraft April 25, 2011 at 10:47 am

Hi Mark, I can only imagine the amount of work involved cleaning up pelican poop! Pelicans are huge birds!

Michael Daniel Ho May 19, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Nice article, Carolyn. I love watching Pelicans flying in formation or cruise just above the waterline. Have you seen a Brown Pelican flying without wings before? Click on the link to see one

Tom March 5, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Interesting reading for the measurable benefits




Carolyn Kraft March 8, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Thanks for sharing this Tom! Fascinating.

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