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Order Description


Order Description

The Order Pelecaniformes has six families. There are 8 genera and approximately 67 species. All eight genera and 11 species are found in Georgia, although some only accidentally or rarely.

Family Anhingidae

The anhingas (also known as darters) have a long thin neck and sharply pointed bill which is used to stab fish. Anhingas often swim with their bodies submerged which gives them a snake-like appearance in the water. Like the cormorants, anhingas have somewhat permeable plumage and therefore spread their wings to dry after immersion in water.
Species in this family:
    Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga)

Family Fregatidae

The frigatebirds are large and dark with long, slender wings, long forked tails, and sharply hooked bill. They have the longest wingspan in proportion to weight (low wing load) of all birds. Frigatebirds are notorious for their feeding habits chasing other birds until they disgorge (vomit) and catching the food in midair. The young are very slow to mature.
Species in this family:
    Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificans)

Family Pelecanidae

The pelicans are large heavy birds with strong wings and the familiar huge throat pouch.
Species in this family:
    American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)
    Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)

Family Phaethontidae

These are the tropicbirds, crow-sized with gull-like wings. The adults can be identified by their long central tail feathers and are usually seen far out to sea. They lack the throat pouch found in the other families of this order.
Species in this family:
    Red-billed Tropicbird (Phaethon aethereus)
    White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon lepturus)

Family Phalacrocoracidae

The cormorants are large birds with long hooked bills. Their legs are placed far back on the body. These birds are generally dark with bare facial skin. The plumage is somewhat permeable (see Anhingidae).
Species in this family:
    Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus)
    Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)

Family Sulidae

The gannets and boobies are plunge-diving feeders of fish and squid. They are duck to goose sized with long narrow wings. The members of this family have wedge-shaped tails with long-straight, tapering bills.
Species in this family:
    Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster)
    Masked Booby (Sula dactylatra)
    Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus)