The Hunting Island beach is home to the Brown Pelican. These large birds are commonly seen gliding effortlessly on the coastal winds. They make great photography subjects.
The Unique Brown Pelican
There are 8 species of pelicans worldwide, but only the Brown Pelican is exclusively found on ocean shores and not on inland lakes. They are the only dark pelican and the only pelican that plunges from the air into the water to catch its meal. They spot their catch from the air, then dive straight down, fold back their wings and plung into the water head first. A large flexible pouch on their bill traps water and fish. The Pelican surfaces and drains the water out of the sides of bill, and swallows the fish. Often, sea gulls can be seen stealing fish from their pouch. One can observe this behavior all day long on Hunting Island.
From the Brink of Extinction
The Brown Pelican and the Osprey, almost became extinct in the late 1950's. It was discovered pesticides, especially DDT, were causing their eggs to have thin shells. While most birds warm their eggs with the skin of their breasts, the Brown Pelican warms its eggs with their feet. They hold the eggs under the webs that stretch from the front toes to the hind toe, basically standing on the eggs to warm them. Because the eggs became so thin, the incubating parents frequently cracked their eggs. DDT was banned for use in the USA, and the Pelican was placed on the endangered species list between 1970 until 1985, after making a full recovery.