I had a few minutes to kill while waiting to see the “Hurricane on the Bayou” (the before and after of Hurricane Katrina in NOLA) at the Imax theater on the Riverfront in New Orleans, so I walked over to the levee to watch the local birds perform their aerial stunts. One lone Brown Pelican soared up and down the riverfront without flapping, using just the lift provided by wind off the water. The clean, aerodynamic lines of the wings as the bird maneuvers through its turns are truly impressive.
I’ve seen these birds practice this dynamic soaring over ocean waves where they can exploit the difference in velocities of the moving air masses, but never over the quieter moving water of a river like this. The bird employed a sort of figure 8 pattern, zooming close to the water surface, and then rising up swiftly to make a turn and back out of the loop to zoom down close to the surface again. Quite fascinating to watch.
Laughing Gulls were quite numerous, but flew by me much more rapidly, making it difficult to focus accurately. They too use their long wings to soar, but flap to change direction continuously, as they key in on potential food sources. Laughing Gulls are one of the most common gulls along the coastal areas of North America.
One of these gulls had distinctive white spots on tips of its black primary flight feathers. It might have been a migratory Franklin’s Gull, which are also found along the Gulf Coast in the winter.
A Double-crested Cormorant flew by, too quickly for me to get a good photo of it in flight. They flap their wings rapidly and continuously to get from one place to another, and my shutter speed was entirely wrong for that action. But the bird did pose nicely for me while it was diving for food.