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Fort de Soto Park

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A Mullet Buffet for the Pelicans St. Petersburg Florida United States

A Mullet Buffet for the Pelicans

The mullet were running. Big swirling schools of fish raced up and down in the water just past the surf line of North Beach in Fort DeSoto Park.

Word was out. Squadrons of Brown Pelicans patrolled the skies over the abundant salt-water buffet. Above the mullet feast, the pelicans lined up in groups of three or four, sighted their tasty targets, and dove. They hit the water with a ferocious splash and then bobbed like corks while they situated their catch in their gullet and with one stretch of the neck swallowed the fish whole. Ring-billed Gulls scavenged tidbits as they dropped from the pelicans’ bills. The gulls gyrated in the air around the diving pelicans appearing to be avian cheerleaders with their raucous cries of encouragement. We imagined them yelling,

“There’s one…over by the buoy…hurry up…DIVE”
“You missed it, how could you miss it,? Up in the air with you, try again”
“What do you mean you ate it ALL?
“That’s MINE!!!!!”.

The pelicans ignored the pesky gray and white feathered nags of the air. They gathered themselves, flew low over the water, climbed about ten, twenty, or thirty feet in the air, eyed the water below, latched onto a target, dove, bobbed up with head shaking, swallowed, and then gathered themselves up for another try. Over and over and over again, they dove, until finally, hunger sated they flew to a small sand spit in a nearby lagoon to rest and preen in the sun.