Brown PelicanPelecanus occidentalis

adult, breeding, Western
Adrian & Jane Binns/VIREO
adult, breeding, Eastern
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult, breeding, Western
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adults, nonbreeding, Western
Arthur Morris/VIREO
immature, Western
Arthur Morris/VIREO
immature, Western
Brian K. Wheeler/VIREO
adult, breeding, Western
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult, breeding, Western
Arthur Morris/VIREO
Brown Pelican

Family

Description

45-54" (1.1-1.4 m). W. 7'6" (2.3 m). A very large, stocky bird with a dark brown body and a long flat bill. The only non-white pelican in the world. Head whitish in adults, with dark brown on hindneck during breeding season. Young birds have dark brown head and whitish bellies.

Voice

Usually silent, but utters low grunts on nesting grounds.

Listen

colony sounds

Habitat

Sandy coastal beaches and lagoons, waterfronts and pilings, and rocky cliffs.

Range

Resident of Pacific Coast from southern California south to Chile, dispersing northward as far as southern British Columbia after nesting season. Also on Atlantic Coast from North Carolina south to Venezuela.

Discussion

These social colonial birds fly in single file low over the water; on sighting prey they plunge with wings half-folded, from heights of up to 50 feet (15 meters), surfacing to drain water from their bills before swallowing the fish. Unlike its larger white relative, the Brown Pelican seldom soars. Around waterfronts and marinas individual birds become quite tame, taking fish offered them by humans.

Nesting

2 or 3 chalky white eggs in a nest of sticks, straw, or other debris, usually on a rocky island near the coast. Nests in colonies.

Similar Species

breeding adult with breeding knot

American White Pelican

55-70" (1.4-1.8 m). W. 8' (2.4 m). A huge white bird with a long flat bill and black wing tips. In breeding season, has short yellowish crest on back of head and horny plate on upper mandible.

Vireo

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