What Does the Pelican Use Its Pouch For?
The pelican uses its pouch as a dip net to scoop up fish from the water. A pelican’s pouch hangs from the underside of its long beak. When the bird spots a fish near the surface, it plunges its big bill into the water.
The elastic pouch stretches wide, scooping in the fish and as much as three gallons of water. Then the bird tilts its head to the side to spill out the water, and swallows the fish.
To feed its young, the adult pelican passes partly digested food from its stomach up into its pouch and the baby pelican pokes its head into the pouch and pecks up the food.
Pelicans pouch is capable of holding the liquid equivalent of two flushes of a toilet. Even though the pelican’s tongue is tiny, a complex set of specialized tongue muscles control the pouch.
By contracting these muscles, the pelican tightens the pouch after catching a fish, expelling water and forcing the prey down its throat. Pelicans perform strange-looking exercises to stretch and maintain their pouch in a brand of pelican yoga.
They will gape, holding their mouths wide open. In another pose, they point the bill straight up to the sky, stretching the pouch. Or most evocatively, a bird will turn its pouch completely inside out by forcing it over its breast.