BROWN PELICAN

BROWN PELICAN (Pelecanus occidentalis)

The Brown pelican is the smallest of its species, at approximately 52 inches (130 cm) long including the bill, and a wingspan of around 6.6 feet (2 m), which is still a good size. The bill, as in all pelicans, is quite long at some 12 inches (30 cm), and has a pouch to hold food prey. This pouch can hold three times as much as the stomach. Contrary to popular belief, a pelican pouch is not used for transporting anything else.

The plumage is more grey than brown, the head is yellow and the neck white. The breeding male has a yellow head and the neck turns black. The bill is mostly grey and the legs and feet are black.

This bird has excellent eyesight, used to spot fish from the air. It will then dive headfirst and scoop the fish in its pouch, draining water from it while on the surface. However, while doing this other birds such as gulls or terns will help themselves right from the pouch. On the other hand, the brown pelican too is attracted to easy food (see photo below).

The brown pelican is a social bird that breeds in colonies. Its habitat includes the coast of most of the USA (except Alaska), Mexico, the Caribbean, and northern South America. For some time this species was endangered due to pesticides such as DDT, but has made a full recovery following the DDT ban.

Brown pelican adult breeding trying to snatch a fish - Aransas Bay, TX - Feb. 19, 2017 - by Jodi Arsenault
Brown pelican adult breeding trying to snatch a fish – Aransas Bay, TX – Feb. 19, 2017 – by Jodi Arsenault
Brown pelican, juvenile - Rockport Beach, TX - Feb. 19, 2017 - by Jodi Arsenault
Brown pelican, juvenile – Rockport Beach, TX – Feb. 19, 2017 – by Jodi Arsenault
Brown pelican juvenile - Aransas Bay, TX - Sept. 17, 2016 - by Jodi Arsenault
Brown pelican juvenile – Aransas Bay, TX – Sept. 17, 2016 – by Jodi Arsenault
Flying brown pelican juvenile - Aransas Bay, TX - Feb. 19, 2017 - by Jodi Arsenault
Flying brown pelican juvenile – Aransas Bay, TX – Feb. 19, 2017 – by Jodi Arsenault
Brown Pelican - Mexico - May 2, 2015 - photo by Roberta Palmer
Brown Pelican – Mexico – May 2, 2015 – photo by Roberta Palmer
Brown pelican, adult breeding - Rockport Beach, TX - Feb. 19, 2017 - by Jodi Arsenault
Brown pelican, adult breeding – Rockport Beach, TX – Feb. 19, 2017 – by Jodi Arsenault
Brown pelicans, terns, gulls and great blue heron - Aransas Bay, TX - Sept. 17, 2016 - by Jodi Arsenault
Brown pelicans, terns, gulls and great blue heron – Aransas Bay, TX – Sept. 17, 2016 – by Jodi Arsenault

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