How Does the Pelican Use Its Pouch?

The pelican has a long beak and an enormous elastic pouch connected to its underside. The pelican uses its pouch to feed itself and its young. Living by the shore, this bird’s diet consists mainly of fish. The pouch is a very efficient fish net.

If the pelican passes a shoal of fish, it puts its lower beak in the water and swims forward, using its pouch like a net. When the pouch is full of both fish and water, the pelican closes its mouth and the water drains out. If there are a lot of fish in the water, the pelican may keep scooping them up until its pouch is bulging.

The mother pelican also uses her pouch to feed her young. She partly digests her own food, then passes it back from her stomach into the pouch. The young pelicans dip in, eating from this convenient “bowl.” They eat until the pouch is empty, and sometimes fall into it too.

The pouch of the pelican can stretch so much that it can carry 12 quarts of water or 30 pounds of fish!