Brown pelican

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Project Description

Brown Pelican

Pelecanus occidentalis


Range/Geographical Distribution:  Along the Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Venezuela and along the Pacific coast from southern California to Chile. After nesting season, they can be seen as far north as British Columbia.

Habitat: Warm coastal, estuarine, and marine environments.  

Similar Species: White pelican. 

Description:  A large brown bird with brown legs.  Breeding plumage includes a white head and a brown neck. The non-breeding adult’s head and neck are white. Immature birds have dark brown heads and white bellies. 

Size: Length: 39-54” Wingspan: 79” Weight: 2000-5000g

Food: Fish and some marine invertebrates.

Breeding:  Lays two or three white eggs in a nest of straw, sticks, and other debris placed in a tree or a low bush on the ground on islands. Pelicans nest in colonies.

Predators:  Chicks may fall prey to feral cats, skunks, and gulls. Adults have few known predators.

Conservation Status: Pesticide poisoning, especially DDT, caused populations to decline in the late 1950’s. Brown pelicans were listed as endangered in 1970 but were removed from the endangered species list in 1985. Populations are now stable and it is listed as least concern by IUCN.

Interesting Facts: The brown pelican is the only pelican species which plunges from the air into the water after its food.

On the Coast: The brown pelican can be seen frequently along the coast of Georgia. It is the only dark species out of the seven species of pelicans found across the world.

Project Details


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