The title isn’t entirely true; the mayhem started the day before, on October 13, when pelicans began to fight each other for access to colonize the nearby loafing areas. It was windy outside and the water was choppy, which made the pelicans’ abilities to encroach upon and defend new areas more difficult than usual.
On the fourteenth, the pelicans were still quite feisty. A large group kept circling the bay, hunting. Small groups splintered off to hunt on their own and later rejoined the main group. Other birds bathed and loafed, and birds who finished bathing or who wanted a break from hunting tried to steal log space away from loafing pelicans.
Because there are so many pictures in this post, there will be a cut near the beginning of the narrative.
Some of the swimming birds found trash to bounce around in their pouches in play.
The Queen of the Log log was an important location in the day’s events (and in general in the lives of the pelicans at White Rock Lake). It is a small log that is maybe fifty feet away from the edge of the dock. Two pelicans can share it if they both cooperate. IF.
The juvenile was easily intimidated and moseyed away, but an adult thought she would try her luck.
The usurping pelican easily dispatched the Queen of the Log pelican. But she barely had time to savor her victory before she, too, had to defend her position.
Meanwhile, the pelican who had been kicked off the Queen of the Log log swam up to an unsuspecting conspecific who had found a raised area on which to loaf.
She succeeded in toppling the pelican and stealing her place.
Other pelicans were bathing much closer to the dock than usual. Q loves watching and listening to the pelicans bathing and splashing around, so when I see it happening when he’s not there, I make sure to get pics for him.
Pelicans do a lot of wing flapping. Often I see them doing it in specific types of social circumstances. Other times, it’s just part of their grooming ritual, like with this bird. I caught her rearing up and flapping from the side, which made her look like she was rising up only to dive back down under the water.
Her bad-assery reaffirmed, the flapping pelican sank down into the water and began her quest to usurp the reigning Queen of the Log.
Although there had been exceptionally high Queen of the Log turnover, the current Queen was able to protect her territory.
Then a pelican came in even closer to bathe!
The bather turned away from me, so I paid more attention to the other pelicans hanging around.
Another fight was brewing for the Queen of the Log position.
After the usurper landed on the log, she beat her wings to show off in front of the usurped pelican.
As she began to relax and preen, several pelicans broke away from the main hunting group and began to circle around the Queen of the Log. The pelican seemed fairly unconcerned, continuing to preen. Perhaps she should have been a little more attentive.
Further away from the Queen of the Log excitement, a small group of pelicans lagged behind the main hunting group and briefly hunted together.
A pelican that had been grooming in the water briefly stood up to flap.
I left the dock and went down to the shore to watch what was happening at the Shore Log. I watched a one-eyed pelican leave the hunters and start swimming toward the Shore Log. Upon closer inspection, the one-eyed pelican still had her eye, or at least part of it, but I had no idea if she could see anything with it. I named her Dread Pirate Roberts. I’m always thrilled to see pelicans with identifying marks so I can observe them more closely and get a better sense of their lives. Unfortunately, she only hung around White Rock Lake for a few days.
Another juvenile decided to take a chance on jumping onto the Shore Log.
I’m always interested to see how a pelican reacts when another pelican invades her personal space. Acceptable personal space is also contingent upon the situation. Some pelicans don’t mind if a wing or a foot hits them in a loafing situation, like when a pelican is already on a log next to them and stretches or suddenly jumps up after waking up. Some pelicans will ignore another pelican if it jumps next to them on a log or walks up near them on the shore or another loafing location. Plenty of pelicans, however, do mind.
The pelican who jabbed at the young one wasn’t done.
Some pelicans were still hunting near the dock.
Then I went back and waited by the Shore Log until another pelican was finally brave enough to jump on.
Sure enough, the new pelican was attacked.
Unlike the last juvenile and Dread Pirate Roberts before her, this pelican got up again and stood her ground, and the pelican who had challenged her went back to preening. Pelicans use different strategies to try not to get attacked or be forced off a log when they jump on. Some birds try to diffuse possible attacks by acting in a submissive manner. Some try to attack their attackers, usually to stand up for themselves just long enough that the pelican who initiated the conflict doesn’t think it’s worth continuing, although some try to throw their attackers off the log. A new pelican muscled her way onto the Shore Log, and she chose yet another strategy.
She chose to attack a pelican that was minding her own business.
Luckily, the pelicans all settled down. It was a peaceful end to an exciting day!