fine feathers: the pelican

It’s beach season and what better way to get into the sandy swing than honoring one of the coolest beach birds around, the pelican. After all, they’re fairly unavoidable on beach trips – whether they make up the art in your family’s beach house or meet you by the water. Check out five interesting facts we found about the fine feathered friend here.

1. There are eight different species of pelicans. We’re most familiar with the brown pelican, which has five subspecies and calls North American and Caribbean coasts home. White pelicans can also be found in the U.S., and while the brown pelican dives for food, the white pelican simply scoops it up while swimming.

2. They’re as powerful as they are graceful. Pelicans are some of the heaviest flying birds, some weighing in over 30 lbs. It’s the air sacks in their bones that give them extra buoyancy. Their wingspans are also impressive, many spanning up to 10 feet, enabling them to soar up to heights of 10,000 above our beach blankets. Body wise, the pelican also boasts the throat pouch, which they use to catch fish, as well as, rainwater for drinking.

3. With their cool looks, it’s no surprise that the pelican is a social bird. They love being around others (you know, throwing beach parties).

4. Pelican fossils date back almost 40 million years, so it’s also no surprise that the bird has quite a bit of symbolism attached to its name. In Ancient Egypt, the pelican was associated with death and the afterlife. Often drawn on the walls of tombs, the bird served as a protective symbol against snakes.

5. The pelican has its own limerick. Yes, in 1910, Dixon Lanier Merritt wrote:

“A wonderful bird is the pelican, His bill will hold more than his belican, He can take in his beak Food enough for a week, But I'm damned if I see how the helican.”

fine feathers: the snowy owl

As we get to know the new year, we'd like to pay homage to one of our feathered friends – the snowy owl. From their coloring to symbolic significance, the snowy owl welcomes the new year in all the right ways:

1. White like the split second of snowfall we saw this past week, the snowy owl's coloring is one of their most intriguing attributes. While their coloring does help them hide in icy landscapes, few snowy owls are purely white. Females and young birds often have dark scalloping. Males even boast a few dark spots from time to time. The really cool thing is that the male usually becomes whiter with age, but they do say that wisdom comes with age.

2. They're unique in more ways than just their coloring. Unlike other owls, the snowy owl is diumal, meaning that they're active during both day and night.

3. They're nomads. A kindred adventurer, the snowy owl likes to travel. While they normally stay put in the northernmost parts of Alaska, Canada and Eurasia, they'll travel southward when prey is not abundant – even moving down into northern United States. They also do this in style, hanging out at airports along the way, perhaps because the large, open spaces remind them of their home in the tundra.

4. They're quiet. Also unlike other owls, the snowy owl rarely makes vocalizations outside of breeding season. While we're all about a good chat, it's neat that they take a little time for r&r, too.

5. The snowy owl is symbolic of the new year. Like all owls, they're often thought to symbolize death, which, in turn, symbolizes rebirth, renewal and new beginnings. We'll cheers to that, snowy owl!

fine feathers: the white peacock

The peacock is one of the most fascinating feathered friends we have. One of the coolest things about them is that their mesmerizing feathers always seem like they're changing colors, but not this one. The white peacock stuns on a whole other level: 1. The white peacock is a genetic variant of the indian blue peafowl – the most common kind of peacock – so even though they're often referred to as albino, they're not at all. For example, albino birds have a complete lack of color and red or pink eyes, but the white peacock still has its baby blues.

2. Peacock refers to the male, while females are called peahens and peafowl covers both sexes. Our white peafowl is actually born yellow, becoming white as it matures – unless the white peacock is bred to a white peahen.

3. Mating to different colored birds produces a wide variety of color patterns in the white peacock. The first, of course, is all white, but there's also the pied white (the combination of white and the usual indian blue colors), the back shoulder pied (indian blue colors except for white under parts, wings and a single spot under the chin) and the blackshoulder peahen (essentially the really neat dalmatian peacock – white with black spots).

4. The white peacock is rarely found in the wild since any patches of white make the bird more visible to predators. It's theorized it's the safety of captivity that actually made their recessive coloration genes emerge.

5. In a general sense, the peacock is a symbol of nobility, guidance, beauty and fidelity, but the white peacock is thought to be part of an ancient order of shamans descended from Venus. In this sense, they're regarded as protectors.