KQED Deep Look thoughtfully analyzed the incredible self-preserving physiological traits of the California brown pelican, specifically noting how these seemingly awkward birds are actually uniquely qualified to make accurate dives at high speeds in search of prey without ever harming themselves.
So how does this massive bird survive a 40-foot drop onto rock-hard water? A big part of it is just good form. See how the wings shoot back right before impact? That safeguards the delicate bones there. At the same instant, powerful muscles tense around the spine, keeping the bird from snapping its neck….But most of the credit goes to that magnificent, sword-shaped bill. It’s contoured to slice into the surface at high speed with almost no drag.