I don’t know about you, but I had no idea that pelicans were capable of doing such a heinous act.
I figured that pelicans just swooped down and ate fish or munched on some grass or seeds. Turns out they sometimes go for live baby birds, such as the Cape Gannet chicks in this video.
Most pelicans are pescatarians, meaning they only eat fish, but some are very opportunistic and just eat whatever they can. That could mean that lizards, crabs, frogs, and really whatever they can get their massive bills on would be prey to the pelican.
The big birds are also known to horrifyingly eat small birds, and have even been known to swoop the birds down into the water in order to drown them before swallowing them.
Pretty, pretty, pretty dark.
In the beautifully filmed clip from BBC Earth, the pelicans are shown passing over the water not looking for fish at all. When fish populations dwindle, pelicans look for other opportunities for food, and sometimes decide to brutally hunt other small birds.
The wonderfully voiced David Attenborough walks viewers through the pelicans dropping down onto an island populated with Cape Gannet chicks. The island acts as a nesting ground for over 60,000 Cape Gannets, and for the pelicans, it’s also serving the purpose of an all you can eat buffet.
The pelicans land within the nesting ground and begin searching for chicks that were left by their parents (most likely to hunt fish to feed them).
The bigger birds walk amongst the sea of Cape Gannets and begin to eat the younger birds right in front of the other birds in the nesting ground.
Pelicans use their flexible pouches beneath their bills to effectively swallow the chicks whole (and alive). While some of the Cape Gannets are able to fend off the menacing pelicans, others are left to watch in horror as the nesting grounds’ young are eaten up by the opportunistic (a**hole) pelicans.
If you can handle it, watch the pelicans hunt down the chicks below: