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Massive Flock
updated: Jan 16, 2013, 1:15 PM

By bradleybennett

Several people witnessed a massive flock of pelicans feeding on a school of fish in shallow waters at Ledbetter beach today around 11:00AM. A few dolphins kept watch on the fringes. The pelicans would drop in to catch a fish and after swallowing would take off, make a loop and dive again. I have lived in Santa Barbara for 37 years and have never seen this.

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Comments in order of when they were received | (reverse order)

 COMMENT 364102P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-16 01:37 PM

Dive, dive. NOT the pelicans, the fish.

 

 COMMENT 364107 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-16 01:48 PM

At about 7:30 this morning there was a pod of dolphin’s circling and feeding just off the harbor.

 

 COMMENT 364108 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-16 01:48 PM

Man, I bet there was some big fish out there too eating the leftovers! Wish I would have been there with my fishing rod....

 

 COMMENT 364114P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-16 01:53 PM

There was a flock doing similarly yesterday off East Beach! Good feeding!!

 

 PATRICK agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-16 02:04 PM

That was great. Surprised I didn't see any mid-air collisions.

 

 COMMENT 364123 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-16 02:05 PM

VERY awesome!

 

 BECKY agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-16 02:14 PM

So cool! I saw this once off Goleta Beach, and it remains a favorite memory. I love pelicans, and can't help but laugh as I watch them dive. To see a huge flock of them just off the beach, eating an obvious school of fish, is just phenomenal. Thanks for sharing!

 

 COMMENT 364128 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-16 02:26 PM

I saw a flock out there yesterday too not that big tho that's amazing

 

 COMMENT 364140 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-16 02:39 PM

Saw them at West Beach/Harbor yesterday early evening, it was cool!

 

 COMMENT 364162 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-16 03:27 PM

The "Bait Ball" of fish moved to the harbor enterance, at the end of the breakwall about 2PM. I have never seen so many pelican, gulls, terns, egrets, sea lions and dolphins feeding all at the same time and same place... Quite a treat to see!

 

 COMMENT 364169 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-16 03:53 PM

Great pictures, it's so amazing to see how our Pelican population has increased. Love those birds!

 

 COMMENT 364170 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-16 03:53 PM

Wow, 37 years? Isn't that the coolest thing about living near nature and the ocean...you see once in a lifetime things, even after all those years here. Very awesome and breathtaking. A great reminder how wonderful it is when the environment is cared for as it is here, and creatures are thriving.

 

 COMMENT 364176 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-16 04:05 PM

From Wikipedia: Pods of many dolphin species commonly herd a school of fish into a bait ball while individual members take turns ploughing through and feeding on the more compacted shoal. Corralling is a method where fish are chased to shallow water where they are more easily captured

And this link is to some photos of a bait ball just south of our harbor taken in July this year. It created such a scene that boats were converging on the spot to watch.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/smbrcsubmerged/7606597416/in/set-72157629475333752/

 

 COMMENT 364179 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-16 04:06 PM

@ Patrick those pelicans were well choreographed.

 

 D8VANILLA agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-16 05:26 PM

Saw a huge group as i drove hwy 101 south along the beaches around 11:30a

 

 COMMENT 364228 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-16 05:52 PM

Video of the year. Thanks for sharing such an amazing sight.

 

 TWO ABBYS agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-16 08:27 PM

That was awesome, thanks for sharing the video! Once many years ago coming south on 101 near Shell Beach my husband and I saw what looked like a low grey cloud, and beneath it the water looked like it was boiling. When we got closer we could see it was thousands of seabirds. A biologist friend said it was probably sooty shearwaters. Sibley's Field Guide to Birds of Western North America says they can form flocks of hundreds of thousands.

 

 COMMENT 364342 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-16 09:41 PM

I love the video! I happened by and took a bunch of still pictures yesterday off East Beach. It's fascinating to watch the pelicans dive and to know that they can spot a fish from up to about 50' above the water, time their dives, bird and fish moving, so as to catch the fish, which has to be just the right size to swallow. Amazing, too, that they can maneuver so carefully in such crowded conditions.

It takes quite a while for the young pelicans, the brown ones, to learn to fish -- there's an estimated 10 attempts for every successful attempt. That's a reason why so many juvenile pelicans hang around the fishing boats and Stearns Wharf early-mid Summer ... and then get hooked. It's really hard to catch a fish and the birds, especially the young, just fresh out of their nests and not having learned to not trust humans, quickly get acclimated to handouts ... and then too often get hooked or trapped in fishing line. The lucky ones get found and brought to the SB Wildlife Care Network. Would that there were many, many such fish balls!

It's interesting, too, to think of the communication within the flocks: one or two will spot the fish and soon more and more arrive to share in the feeding, each diving, not fighting among themselves.

 

 COMMENT 364343P agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-16 09:46 PM

We saw a massive pelican feeding scene this morning along hwy 101 south of Carpintrria. Hundreds of baby pelicans were floating on the surface while the adults were diving for fish.
I've seen this hapen before offshore from west Isla Vista.

 

 MADMAX agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-17 07:30 AM

O-Fish-L Happy Hour!

 

 CAT2FAT2 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-17 09:28 AM

I was walking along that beach around noon and hoped someone had gotten pictures. Some tiny "bait ball" sardine looking fish were washing up with the waves. It was an amazing sight!

 

 COMMENT 364472 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-17 09:51 AM

There was another off Wilcox yesterday afternoon. Fewer pelicans and more dolphins.

 

 MOARTS51 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-17 11:23 AM

great stuff here and so glad you did video of it - a still just can't do justice to this kind of scene. ab-fab !

 

 COMMENT 364577 agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-17 01:37 PM

They were here on Padaro beach too. Not as massive a flock as in the video, but quite a lot of them.

Thanks so much for the video, that was amazing!

 

 GOOSEBERRY agree helpful negative off topic

2013-01-17 03:35 PM

Great video! Thanks for sharing.

 

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