Brown Pelican

Pelecanus occidentalis




Pelicans (Pelecanidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

White, nest stained

Number of Eggs:

2 - 4

Incubation Days:

28 - 30

Egg Incubator:

Both sexes

Nest Location:

6 - 20 feet high in vegetation.

Nest Material:

Sticks, reeds, and grass.





Brown Pelican: Large, unmistakable seabird with gray-brown body, dark brown and pale yellow head and neck, and oversized bill. Large feet are webbed. Sexes are similar. Winter adult has pale neck and head. Juvenile has browner upperparts, paler underparts, and dark neck and head.

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.

Breeding and Nesting

Brown Pelican: Lays two to four white eggs in a nest made of reeds, grass, straw, and sticks, and built in a tree; or builds a ground nest consisting of a shallow scrape lined with feathers and a surrounding rim of soil 4 to 6 inches high. Usually nests in colonies. Incubation ranges from 28 to 30 days and is carried out by both parents.

Foraging and Feeding

Brown Pelican: Eats mostly menhaden, accounting for over 90 percent of diet, but also preys on pigfish, pinfish, herring, sheepshead, silversides, mullet, top minnows, and crustaceans, usually prawns. Plunge dives to catch fish.


Brown Pelican: Usually silent, but utters low grunts on nesting grounds.

Similar Species

Brown Pelican: None in range.


Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X