How long does it take for pelican to decompose?

August 29, 2023
min read

Short answer

The decomposition time of a pelican can vary depending on various factors such as environmental conditions and scavenger activity. Generally, it can take several weeks to a few months for a pelican to fully decompose.


Decomposition is a natural process that occurs after the death of a pelican. When a pelican dies, its body undergoes a series of complex biological and chemical changes. Initially, the decomposition process begins with autolysis, which is the breakdown of cells by enzymes released from within the body. This results in the release of substances, such as gases and fluids, that contribute to a strong odor.

Following autolysis, the pelican's body starts to attract bacteria and other microorganisms. These organisms play a crucial role in breaking down the remaining tissues and organs of the pelican. This process is known as putrefaction and is responsible for the progression of decomposition. The bacteria present in the pelican's gut and other parts start to multiply rapidly, leading to the breakdown of proteins and production of ammonia. At this stage, the pelican's body becomes bloated and its skin changes color due to the gases and chemicals released.

Over time, the decomposition process continues to progress, leading to the breakdown of the pelican's internal organs and soft tissues. This results in the formation of a semi-liquid mass within the body cavity, often referred to as putrefaction fluid or liquescence. The pelican's skeletal structure and feathers may remain relatively intact for a longer period, as they are more resistant to decomposition. Eventually, the pelican's remains are broken down to their simplest components, ultimately returning to the environment as nutrients that can nourish other organisms and support the cycle of life.

Is it possible to recycle pelican?

Intresting facts

  • The decomposition of a pelican, like any other organism, follows five stages: fresh, bloat, active decay, advanced decay, and dry remains.
  • During the fresh stage of decomposition, bacteria and fungi start breaking down the softer tissues of the pelican's body. This process leads to the release of gases, causing the carcass to bloat.
  • As the pelican enters the active decay stage, bacteria and maggots consume the remaining soft tissues, and the carcass starts to visibly decompose. The strong odor intensifies during this phase.
  • In the advanced decay stage, the pelican's skeleton becomes visible, with only small traces of flesh remaining. The smell becomes less pungent, and the decomposition process starts to slow down.
  • Finally, during the dry remains stage, the pelican's body is reduced to bones, hair, and feathers. These remains can persist for a long time, gradually breaking down through natural processes.

Summary and final thoughts

The decomposition time of a pelican can vary depending on various factors such as environmental conditions and specific circumstances. Generally, when a pelican dies, its body undergoes natural decomposition processes. Bacteria and other microorganisms start breaking down the organic matter, and scavengers may contribute to the process by feeding on the carcass. In ideal conditions, it can take a few weeks to several months for a pelican's body to fully decompose, with the bones eventually breaking down over a longer period. However, the exact timeline can be influenced by factors like temperature, moisture levels, availability of oxygen, and the presence of scavengers. It is important to note that decomposition rates can vary significantly and are not an exact science.

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