Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

A Baby Pelican’s Big Gulp

©Bert Gildart: Pelicans in Montana? You betcha, and though not as abundant as the brown pelicans of Florida, still huge colonies of adult white pelicans seek out Montana, migrating from distant places in the South as well as from Mexico. In fact, they’re here right now, and they’re taking care of their young.

Most, but not all young pelicans have hatched, and when they do, they are helpless. An ornithologist would term this type of condition altricial, as opposed to those born perfectly capable of fending (at least somewhat) for themselves–or precocial. They need protection from predators and that’s one of the reasons adult white pelicans seek out specific types of islands, and those islands are found only in the vast prairies of western North America. Some of the best are found in Montana.


Adult white pelicans seek small isolated islands that are flat, devoid of vegetation and that are surrounded by large bodies of water. What they need is isolation from coyotes, foxes, raccoon and other similar types of predators.

In Montana, there are but few remaining and most are all found on national wildlife refuges, such as Bowdoin. There is also a huge colony on the Molly Islands in a remote region of Yellowstone Lake in Yellowstone National Park.


Deep inside the gular pouch a young pelican takes a big gulp of food brought back by one of its parents.

Conditions such as just describe are mandatory for the survival of pelican young, which are born naked, incapable of foraging for themselves, and certainly not capable of protecting themselves through flight. By contrasts, precocial birds, such as the avocet, are pretty much capable of taking care of themselves. When hatched, they have feathers and are born with their eyes open–or soon to be opened.


If you could visit one of these islands what you’d see is pretty much depicted in the accompanying photograph, i.e., a huge colony of white pelicans. And scattered here and there you’d see young pelicans trying to suck out food from the adult’s gular pouch. In other words, you’d see these young birds trying to nourish by inserting their heads as far into the parent’s throat as it will allow.

In other words, you’d see them trying to take the big gulp.


Photo taken on remote island in eastern Montana from inside a blind and over a several day period of time. Much waiting involved as well as the use of a long telephoto lens (600mm). Long lenses necessary to eliminate stress on birds. It’s also necessary to arrive early in the day and depart late, again, so as to reduce stress on birds.


About 11 more days until departure for the ALCAN (Alaska-Canada Highway) which will take us to Fairbanks in our Airstream. Upon arrival we’ll be covering a number of events to include the World Eskimo Indian Olympics.



*No Table Manners Among Turkey Vultures


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