What does a pelican’s beak look like?

What does a pelican’s beak look like?

A pelican has a massive long beak. 

The beak has an upper mandible (top half of its beak) and a lower mandible (lower half of its beak).

The beak can grow to 47 centimetres (19 inches) in length. 

At the tip of the upper mandible is a hook, called a crochet or a bill-tip. The crochet helps the pelican grip onto slippery fish to eat. A pelican catches large fish with its crochet, tosses it into the air, and lets it slide down the gullet of its open mouth.  

Attached to the lower mandible is a deep, flexible, stretchy throat pouch. The pouch is like a leather bag. Its beak scoops up water with fish, and they slide down its throat, head first. This is called dip netting.

A pelican can fit three times more fish in its mouth than in its stomach. But the pelican does not store fish in its pouch to eat later. It uses its pouch to catch fish, drain the water, and swallow the fish immediately. 

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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