Feeding frenzy

We visited High Island Lake in New Auburn, MN a few days ago just in time to see a feeding frenzy taking place with White Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants, and Great Blue Herons exploiting a school of small fish along the shore of the lake.

First, however, preening those all-important flight feathers had to be done.

Double-crested Cormorants and White Pelicans rested in the early morning sunlight on a sandbar in High Island Lake.

Suddenly, the pelicans went on alert, lined up on the sandbar, looking down the lake.

How do they all know they should get ready to fly? Which bird makes the decision, and why do they all follow the leader?

Then, pelicans in small groups of 4-5 took off from one sandbar to fly to a site further down the lake, apparently where there was a fishing hot spot.

Barely two feet off the surface of the water, these pelicans effortlessly glide along hardly flapping.

There, hundreds of them sat closely together in the water, churning their feet, flapping their wings, and dipping their bills in the water to catch fish.

They sit almost on top of each other in a long string from the shore outward into the lake.

By lifting their wings and churning their feet in the shallow water the pelicans drive schools of fish toward shallow water where they can be easily picked up.

The pelicans dip their bills in the water, move their head around, and come up with something (a fish I guess) causing them to tip their head back and swallow.

Great Blue Herons, usually completely solitary and intolerant of other herons feeding nearby, stood around on shore in groups watching the pelican feeding action.  Perhaps they hoped to catch the stray fish that escaped the large gapes of the pelicans.

White Pelicans are highly gregarious and depend heavily on their social nature for their success.  They nest and breed in dense colonies, and they typically feed in small to large groups, which apparently increases their success in catching fish.  But they are also highly opportunistic in their feeding, and can adjust their feeding strategy as they change their diet in response to water levels.

4 thoughts on “Feeding frenzy

  1. You bring me along on all your adventures. The pelican post was fun. -The blue herons on the side. I haven’t seen that many blue herons, with others herons. Great photography.

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