Tortola’s pelicans enjoy fishing, flying and playing along the shore line of Apple Bay on the north shore of Tortola. The birds are distinguished by their large elastic throat pouches. They live mostly on fish by catching them using their pouches as a fishing net.
The Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, is the main species on the island.
It is unique in that it fly’s over the waters looking for schools of small fish and then captures its food by by a spectacular dive bomb plunge from up to 65 feet up in the air.
It is amazing to watch them in the shallow waters along the shore, out in front of the villa, dive and not break their necks going after the fish. Most time they succeed, letting out up to two and a half gallons of salt water and then gobbling up their food with a little shake of their butt feathers as sign of success.
The photos for the “Pelicans at Apple Bay” slideshow displayed below were all taken at the Applesurf Villas located at the west end of Apple Bay Beach here in Tortola either off the deck of the Sea Breeze or the patio of the Ocean Mist.
The brown pelican was an endangered species from 1970 to 2009 as DDT decimated them by causing reproductive failures. Since then, they have come back strong. Pelicans raise one brood a year producing 2 to 4 eggs that incubate for 30 days. It takes a couple of months before they can fly and be independent with their parents caring and feeding them via a regurgitated, partially digested fish until that time. Pelican parents will provide an average of 150 lbs of fish per juvenile this way before they can feed themselves.
Pelicans live for 15 to 25 years with a wing span of six to eight feet. The birds are not fazed by human presence for the most part and are fascinating to watch as they interact with each other scouting, dive bombing and eating.
If you walk the shore road towards the Sugar Mill from where Bomba’s was, look up in the trees on the right starting at about 100 feet ahead . You might see pelicans looking out from their nests in the trees.
Slideshow above is of Pelicans diving for food, photos had to be cropped pretty good affecting resolution, so limited size. Gives you idea of the force they hit the water with!