Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Pelicans and Mathematics

The weather is really starting to get nice here in Georgia, sunny and warm every day.  I love being able to shut off the heat and open windows and doors to get some fresh air, pollen be darned.  It's been nice weather to do some little jobs on the boat.  I got a second coat of paint on the windlass, and I've been thinking about putting a coat of paint on the inside of the gunnels.  I sanded them awhile back, and I've just been waiting for some nice weather to paint and for the dogs to get out of  the way.

I  warned you that I was going to bombard you with yet more pelican photos.  Well, today is that day.  I did show some restraint, though, so perhaps "bombard" isn't quite accurate.

Pelicans are my new favorite bird ever since coming to Brunswick Landing Marina where they're plentiful.  They look awkward and ungainly, and they pretty much are on land.  Buts once they hit the air, they're beautiful and graceful.

I'm amazed  at how close they glide to the water, and how they use the extra lift generated from being close to the water to glide for great distances without flapping their wings.  I've seen pelicans so close to the water that their wing tips touch.  Why do they do it?

According to a 1987 study conducted by Syracuse University, "Fig. 3 shows frequency distributions for altitudes (assuming maximum span = 210 cm) for brown pelicans during gliding (open histogram) and flapping (shaded histogram). The average altitude during gliding was 33 ± 5 cm (S.D.,iV= 41) and the average altitude during flapping was 52 ± 10cm (iV=58) (t97 = 10-614, P< 0-001).  Fig. 1 shows that gliding at an average altitude of 33 cm yields an induced drag saving of 49 %. The extremes of variation in altitude during gliding (24—45 cm) would give induced drag savings ranging from 41 to 58%."

So there you have it.  Pelicans glide really low to the water because they like math.

Fun facts:  Brown Pelicans have yellow heads during mating season.   The Brown Pelican is the Louisiana state bird.   Starting this year, the NBA team New Orleans Hornets will be known as the New Orleans Pelicans.

Watching them take off from the water is great fun.

First they lift and spread their wings...

and then run on the water to build speed...

going faster and faster... 

until airborne.  They do this while doing all the above mathematics in their heads.  Incredible.

For such an ugly bird, I think pelicans are very photogenic.  They took turns landing on the piling next to Drift Away as Pamela talked to them in her feminine sing song voice, asking "Who's the pretty bird?  You're the pretty bird!"   They loved it.

A pelican's bill usually rests on it's neck at rest.  It must be heavy.

I mean, just think if your nose was almost as long as the rest of you.  The pelican developed a long flexible neck to help with balance while sleeping.

There are plenty of other birds here in Georgia's Golden  Isles, of course.  I got a lucky shot of a seagull flying close by after catching a small fish.  If you look closely, you can see the fish's tail sticking out of its bill.  Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Speaking of seagulls...

Elmer brought Myrtle a fish and laid it at her feet.

"Is that a Krispy Kreme glazed donut?" she asked.


"No it's not.  It's another friggin' fish.  I hate fish.  Go get me a donut."


  1. I HAVE to meet you some day Dave! You are the MAN! I love your outlook on life!

    1. Well, if you could have heard the words I was saying and the mood I was in today you wouldn't be so eager to meet me. Grrrrr.

      Where do you live, Mark?

    2. Lived in Oklahoma City the past 10 years, as well as a number of a bunch of other places including Andes, NY. You'll have to look that one up. Prefer the ocean or the mountains so am about as far as possible from either. Need another trip to NY!!!

  2. Beautiful pictures Dave, thanks for posting. The Pelican sure looks like he was designed by a commitee. How is the moutain homestead progressing?

    1. Hey Dave,

      No real work on the homestead yet. My '56 Thunderbird is being picked up tomorrow for it's trip to my daughter's house, and we've made arrangements to store Drift Away on the hard in Florida if the boat doesn't sell in the next three weeks, and we've arranged to rent a cabin not far from the homestead. So things are coming together, as planned.

      Once we're off the boat, this blog will be dormant and Bleecker Mountain Life will be the one updated.

      I'm going to miss it here. The low country, beautiful sunsets, the water animals and waterfowl, and Elmer and Myrtle.