Brown Pelican

Pelecanus occidentalis

Order

PELECANIFORMES

Family

Pelicans (Pelecanidae)

Code 4

BRPE

Code 6

PELOCC

ITIS

ILLUSTRATION

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PHOTOS

CONSERVATION STATUS

Least Concern

The Brown Pelican has a large range of 1,920,000 square kilometers. This includes coastal habitats from southern California in the west, and the Chesapeake Bay in the east south to northern South America, including the Galapagos Islands. After breeding, birds also disperse north to the Vancouver area and south to Peru and French Guiana. The global population of the species is not known but the estimated population for North America is 191,600-193,700 breeding birds. Although egg shell thinning from DDT contamination caused serious declines in Brown Pelican populations in the past, the species has recovered since then and has a conservation rating of Least Concern.

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BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY

SUMMARY

Overview

Brown Pelican: Large, unmistakable seabird, gray-brown body, dark brown, pale yellow head and neck, oversized bill. Black legs, webbed feet. Feeds on fish by plunge diving and scooping them up with pouch. Powerful flight alternates flaps with short glides. Flies close to the water in straight line.

 

Range and Habitat

Brown Pelican: Found along the Pacific Coast from northern California south to Mexico, and along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from Virginia to southern Mexico, and in coastal areas of the West Indies. During migration, they may occur farther north. Preferred habitats include sandy coastal beaches and lagoons, waterfronts and pilings, and rocky cliffs.

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Brown Pelican SONGS AND CALLS

Brown Pelican A1

Begging calls from two nestlings as an adult flies toward them.

Similar Sounding


Voice Text

Generally silent

INTERESTING FACTS

  • The Brown Pelican can hold about three gallons of water (and fish) in its pouch. They have air sacks beneath their skin and in their bones that make them very buoyant.
  • The Brown Pelican incubates its eggs in an unusual manner; it covers them with its webbed feet. This practice was detrimental to the species when the pesticide DDT was in common use. This pesticide caused thinning of the eggshells resulting in so many broken eggs that the species became endangered.
  • Though adult pelicans may consume as much as four pounds of fish per day, they do not compete with sport or commercial fishermen because of type of fish they eat.
  • A group of pelicans has many collective nouns, including a "brief", "pod", "pouch", "scoop", and "squadron" of pelicans.

SIMILAR BIRDS

RANGE MAP NORTH AMERICA

About this North America Map

This map shows how this species is distributed across North America.

FAMILY DESCRIPTION

TERMINOLOGY

CREDITS

Author

Gary Owen Dick

Artist

Yury Lisyak

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