You are viewing this Taxon as classified by:

Articles on this page are available in 1 other language: Spanish (10) (learn more)

Overview

Brief Summary

The brown pelican's image adorns postage stamps across the Americas, from Bermuda and Belize to Venezuela and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It is Louisiana's state bird and the national bird for Turks and Caicos Islands.

With its dark plumage and distinct feeding methods, the brown pelican sets itself apart from seven other pelican species. Aside from being one of the smaller pelican species, the brown pelican is the only one that is known to dive and dine. Most pelican species feed by corralling fish into shallow waters through a group chase before scooping them up with their large beaks. Brown pelicans have their own distinct method: once they spot light reflecting off the scales of fish, they plunge into the water from heights of up to 70 feet where they scoop up fish, drain water through their beaks and tip their heads back to swallow (MarineBio.org: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, 2010 ). Air sacs beneath their skin protect them from injury when they hit the water (read more: General Description and Elkhorn Slough Birds: Brown Pelican.

The air sacs are also part of what helps these birds fly. Their body length measures 48 inches (1.2 m) on average, which is about the height of a nine-year old child. Yet their weight rarely exceeds 12 lbs (1.4 kg). The trick to keeping such a large bird aloft is not just a long wingspan, but a body made light through air sacs (AvianWeb.com, 2010).

The pelican's recent history is one of struggle against destructive human activities like unregulated hunting and pollution. Over the past century, their ill fortune has wrought positive change, inspiring the creation of one of the first bird refuges in the U.S. as well as a ban against toxic pesticides. Most recently, it became the inadvertent poster animal of the disastrous impact of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. (read more: Conservation)

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Supplier: smadwar

Trusted

Article rating from 1 person

Average rating: 4.0 of 5

Comprehensive Description

The brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, is characterized by an extremely large gray bill, pale yellow eyes, black legs and feet, and an unfeathered black throat pouch (e.g. Terres 1980; Farrand 1983). Plumage coloration varies with age and season, and descriptions are divided accordingly below. Both sexes exhibit identical coloration at each phase. Adult Breeding Plumage is primarily gray and brown, marked with a blackish belly, yellowish head, and chestnut or cinnamon brown nape and hindneck (Terres 1980; Farrand 1983; Harrison 1996).Adult Non-breeding Plumage is similar but duller to that of the adult coloration during the summer season (Farrand 1983; Harrison 1996). The nape and hindneck are mostly white with occasional tinges of yellow.Juvenile/Immature Plumage is mostly brown above, blending to a white breast and underparts (Farrand 1983; Harrison 1996). Adult plumage is acquired by the third year.
  • Carl, RA. 1987. Age-class variation in foraging techniques by brown pelicans. The Condor 89: 525-533.
  • FNAI. 2001. Field Guide to the Rare Animals of Florida. Florida Natural Areas Inventory. Online at http://www.fnai.org/fieldguides.cfm (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • FWCC. 2003. Florida's Breeding Bird Atlas: A Collaborative Study of Florida's Birdlife. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Online at http://www.myfwc.com/bba/ (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • FWCC. 2009. Florida's endangered species, threatened species, and species of special concern. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Online at http://myfwc.com/WILDLIFEHABITATS/imperiledSpp_index.htm (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • Farrand Jr., J (Ed.). 1983. The Audubon Society Master Guide to Birding Volume 1: Loons to Sandpipers. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. USA. 447 pp.
  • Federal Register. 2009. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removal of the Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Final Rule. Department of the Interior. Fish and Wildlife Service. Federal Register Vol.17, No. 20. Online at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=2009_register&docid=fr17no09-14 (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • Grimes, J, Suto, B, Greve. JH & HF Albers. 1989. Effect of selected anthelmintics on three common helminthes in the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis). J. Wildlife Diseases 25: 139-142.
  • Harrison, P. 1996. Seabirds of the World: A Photographic Guide. Princeton Univ. Press. Princeton, NJ. USA. 317 pp.
  • Kale II, HW & DS Maehr. 1990. Florida's Birds. Pineapple Press. Sarasota, FL. USA. 288 pp.
  • Klein, ML, Humphrey, SR & HF Percival. 1995. Effects of ecotourism on distribution of waterbirds in a wildlife refuge. Conserv. Biol. 9: 1454-1465.
  • Kushlan, JA & PC Frohring. 1985. Decreases in the brown pelican population in southern Florida. Colonial Waterbirds 8: 83-95.
  • Mattiucci, S, Paoletti, M, Olivero-Verbel, J, Baldiris, R, Arroyo-Salgado, B, Garbin, L, Navone, G & G Nascetti. 2008. Contracaecum bioccai n. sp. from the brown pelican Pelecanus occidentalis (L.) in Columbia (Nematoda: Anisakidae): morphology, molecular evidence and its genetic relationship with congeners from fish-eating birds. Syst. Parasitol. 69: 101-121.
  • Peterson, RT. 1980. A Field Guide to the Birds: A Completely New Guide to All the Birds of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin. Boston, MA. USA. 384 pp.S
  • Schreiber, RW & EA Schreiber. 1983. Use of age-classes in monitoring population stability of brown pelicans. J. Wildl. Manage. 47: 105-111.
  • Schreiber, RW & PJ Mock. 1988. Eastern brown pelicans: What does 60 years of banding tell us? J. Field Ornithol. 59: 171-182.
  • Terres, JK. 1980. The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. USA. 1109 pp.
  • USFWS. Brown Pelican: Endangered Species Success Story. Biologue Series. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Zamparo, D, Overstreet, RM & DR Brooks. 2005. A new species of Petasiger (Digenea: Echonostomiformes: Echinostomatidae) in the brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, (Aves: Pelecaniformes: Pelecanidae), from the Area de Conservación Guanacaste, Costa Rica. J. Parasitol. 91: 1465-1467.
  • chreiber, RW. 1980. Nesting chronology of the eastern brown pelican. The Auk 97: 491-508.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce

Source: Indian River Lagoon Species Inventory

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Distribution

Brown pelicans are found in warm, shallow waters throughout the nearctic and neotropical regions of both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Although considered strictly coastal, there are some records of brown pelicans living inland during the post-breeding season. Lake Okeechobee, FL and Salton Sea, CA are two locations where these birds have been documented off the coast. They breed in 10 coastal states in the U.S.: Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, and California. In Mexico, brown pelicans are found on offshore islands, and coastal areas along the Caribbean and along the Gulf of Mexico. They have been found on the Pacific coasts in Honduras, Costa Rica, Belize, and Panama. South American sites include the Caribbean coast of Colombia, Venezuela, Aruba, and the Galapagos Island. The only colony on the Pacific coast in South America is in Ecuador. In the West Indies, sites have been documented in Cuba, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Barbuda, and Antigua.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native ); neotropical (Native )

  • Sheilds, M. 2002. The Birds of North America. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Range Description

This species is found in the Americas, breeding along the Pacific coast from California (USA) to Chile and along the Atlantic coast from South Carolina (USA) through the West Indies to Venezuela, ranging as far as Canada and Tierra del Fuego (Chile) in the non-breeding season (del Hoyo et al. 1992).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Transient

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) Breeding range extends along the Pacific coast from southern California to South America and along Atlantic, Gulf, and Caribbean coasts from Maryland south to Florida and westward to southern Texas, plus the Bahamas, West Indies, Yucatan Peninsula, and off Venezuela and the Caribbean coast of Colombia. During the nonbreeding season, brown pelicans range in Pacific coastal waters north to southern British Columbia (after breeding, before winter); in western North America, the species winters mainly from California south; in the southeastern U.S., the primary winter range includes Florida and the Gulf Coast.

Subspecies CAROLINENSIS: breeds locally in Maryland and Virginia and south to Florida (primary nesting range), also locally in Louisiana (where reintroduced) and in central coastal Texas; breeds locally also off northeastern Yucatan and Belize, and ranges southward through coastal Honduras and Costa Rica to Panama, where local breeding occurs off the Pacific coast; vagrants wander north to New England and occur casually inland to the Great Lakes and Great Plains states (Johnsgard 1993). Breeds also in the Bahamas (Sprunt 1984) (extirpated, according to Johnsgard 1993). Ranges throughout breeding range and along eastern shores of Mexico south along Central America to the Caribbean coasts of Colombia and Venezuela, and through the Greater and Lesser Antilles to Trinidad; and on the Pacific coast of Central America (AOU 1957).

Subspecies CALIFORNICUS: breeds along Pacific coast in southern California (Anacapa Island), and in Mexico on islands off Baja California and on islands in the Gulf of California (south to Isabella and the Tres Marias Islands); possibly locally along the coast of Sonora and Sinaloa; vagrants have occurred north to British Columbia and Idaho (Johnsgard 1993).

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

P. occidentalis is found on both coasts of North and South America (Harrison 1996). Its range extends along the Pacific coast from Washington south to Peru, including the Galapagos Islands, and on the Atlantic coast from North Carolina throughout the Caribbean to Brazil. Occasionally, birds are spotted as far north as British Columbia and Nova Scotia on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, respectively (Farrand 1983). The species is common in the southeast United States and is the state bird of Louisiana (Terres 1980). Populations are found around beaches, bays and a variety of habitats in tidal estuaries (Farrand 1983). Brown pelicans are rarely seen inland except accidentally as the result of hurricanes and other strong storms (Terres 1980).Indian River Lagoon (India River Lagoon) Distribution: Brown pelicans are found throughout the India River Lagoon in all habitats. Large groups of birds tend to gather near marinas, jetties and other popular fishing spots to feed on scraps as fishers clean their catch.
  • Carl, RA. 1987. Age-class variation in foraging techniques by brown pelicans. The Condor 89: 525-533.
  • FNAI. 2001. Field Guide to the Rare Animals of Florida. Florida Natural Areas Inventory. Online at http://www.fnai.org/fieldguides.cfm (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • FWCC. 2003. Florida's Breeding Bird Atlas: A Collaborative Study of Florida's Birdlife. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Online at http://www.myfwc.com/bba/ (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • FWCC. 2009. Florida's endangered species, threatened species, and species of special concern. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Online at http://myfwc.com/WILDLIFEHABITATS/imperiledSpp_index.htm (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • Farrand Jr., J (Ed.). 1983. The Audubon Society Master Guide to Birding Volume 1: Loons to Sandpipers. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. USA. 447 pp.
  • Federal Register. 2009. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removal of the Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Final Rule. Department of the Interior. Fish and Wildlife Service. Federal Register Vol.17, No. 20. Online at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=2009_register&docid=fr17no09-14 (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • Grimes, J, Suto, B, Greve. JH & HF Albers. 1989. Effect of selected anthelmintics on three common helminthes in the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis). J. Wildlife Diseases 25: 139-142.
  • Harrison, P. 1996. Seabirds of the World: A Photographic Guide. Princeton Univ. Press. Princeton, NJ. USA. 317 pp.
  • Kale II, HW & DS Maehr. 1990. Florida's Birds. Pineapple Press. Sarasota, FL. USA. 288 pp.
  • Klein, ML, Humphrey, SR & HF Percival. 1995. Effects of ecotourism on distribution of waterbirds in a wildlife refuge. Conserv. Biol. 9: 1454-1465.
  • Kushlan, JA & PC Frohring. 1985. Decreases in the brown pelican population in southern Florida. Colonial Waterbirds 8: 83-95.
  • Mattiucci, S, Paoletti, M, Olivero-Verbel, J, Baldiris, R, Arroyo-Salgado, B, Garbin, L, Navone, G & G Nascetti. 2008. Contracaecum bioccai n. sp. from the brown pelican Pelecanus occidentalis (L.) in Columbia (Nematoda: Anisakidae): morphology, molecular evidence and its genetic relationship with congeners from fish-eating birds. Syst. Parasitol. 69: 101-121.
  • Peterson, RT. 1980. A Field Guide to the Birds: A Completely New Guide to All the Birds of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin. Boston, MA. USA. 384 pp.S
  • Schreiber, RW & EA Schreiber. 1983. Use of age-classes in monitoring population stability of brown pelicans. J. Wildl. Manage. 47: 105-111.
  • Schreiber, RW & PJ Mock. 1988. Eastern brown pelicans: What does 60 years of banding tell us? J. Field Ornithol. 59: 171-182.
  • Terres, JK. 1980. The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. USA. 1109 pp.
  • USFWS. Brown Pelican: Endangered Species Success Story. Biologue Series. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Zamparo, D, Overstreet, RM & DR Brooks. 2005. A new species of Petasiger (Digenea: Echonostomiformes: Echinostomatidae) in the brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, (Aves: Pelecaniformes: Pelecanidae), from the Area de Conservación Guanacaste, Costa Rica. J. Parasitol. 91: 1465-1467.
  • chreiber, RW. 1980. Nesting chronology of the eastern brown pelican. The Auk 97: 491-508.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce

Source: Indian River Lagoon Species Inventory

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Physical Description

Morphology

Brown pelicans are easily distinguished by their large body, long bill, and very large gular pouch. They are the darkest plumed of the pelicans. They weigh 2 to 5 kg, and males are 15 to 20% heavier than females. They have a body length of 100 to 137 cm, a bill that ranges from 25 to 38 cm in length (10% longer in males than females), and an average wingspan of 200 cm (which is 3 to 6% longer in males). They have feet with webbing that stretches from the front to the hind toe. Their gular pouch is able to hold up to 3 gallons of water, which is 3 times more than what the stomach can hold. The distal portion of the gular pouch is a dark gray-green year round and during mating, the proximal area of the gular pouch turns a bright red. During incubation, the proximal area of the pouch turns back to the normal gray-green color.

During the first year, the underside is white and molt cycles are so rapid that definitive colors are not easily defined per molt. At around 10 weeks, molting starts and juvenile pelicans undergo 6 molts before reaching definitive basic plumage which then is slightly altered during breeding season. Around 3 to 5 years, plumage has developed, the upper areas turn gray to gray-brown, the abdomen turns a blackish-brown, and the remainder of the underside is striped with black and silver markings. During molting, adult pelicans can adopt up to 3 appearances. During post-breeding season the head becomes pale yellow and the neck becomes white. Immediately prior to breeding the head becomes yellow but the neck turns a dark brown color. During the nesting period, the head turns white with randomly-placed dark feathers and a brown neck. The plumage in males and females is similar except that females are likely to molt before males (females molt at 34 to 36 months; males at 36 to 40 months).

Juvenile brown pelicans display a brown iris which changes to a light tan or blue during courtship. After onset of incubation, the iris returns to a dark brown color. Additionally, juveniles display a black eye ring until 16 to 19 months, at which point it turns pale blue-black color. In adults, this eye ring is a gray-pink most of the year, changes to pink during mating, and then darkens to brown following onset of incubation.

Range mass: 2 to 5 kg.

Range length: 100 to 137 cm.

Average wingspan: 200 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

  • Bartholomew, G., W. Dawsom. 1954. Temperature Regulation in Young Pelicans, Herons, and Gulls. Ecology, 35/4: 466-472.
  • Schreiber, R. 1980. Nesting Chronology of the Eastern Brown Pelican. The Auk, 97/3: 491-508.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Size

Length: 122 cm

Weight: 3636 grams

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Although it is considered the smallest member of the pelican family (Terres 1980), P. occidentalis is a large marine bird often measuring over 1 m in length (Harrison 1996) with a wingspan of nearly 2.3 meters (Farrand 1983) and a total weight of about 8 pounds (3.6 kg). (Terres 1980). Males average a slightly larger body size than females (Terres 1980). Lifespan varies with environmental conditions, food availability and other factors. Some banded individuals have been documented to exceed 31 years of age (Terres 1980).
  • Carl, RA. 1987. Age-class variation in foraging techniques by brown pelicans. The Condor 89: 525-533.
  • FNAI. 2001. Field Guide to the Rare Animals of Florida. Florida Natural Areas Inventory. Online at http://www.fnai.org/fieldguides.cfm (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • FWCC. 2003. Florida's Breeding Bird Atlas: A Collaborative Study of Florida's Birdlife. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Online at http://www.myfwc.com/bba/ (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • FWCC. 2009. Florida's endangered species, threatened species, and species of special concern. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Online at http://myfwc.com/WILDLIFEHABITATS/imperiledSpp_index.htm (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • Farrand Jr., J (Ed.). 1983. The Audubon Society Master Guide to Birding Volume 1: Loons to Sandpipers. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. USA. 447 pp.
  • Federal Register. 2009. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removal of the Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Final Rule. Department of the Interior. Fish and Wildlife Service. Federal Register Vol.17, No. 20. Online at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=2009_register&docid=fr17no09-14 (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • Grimes, J, Suto, B, Greve. JH & HF Albers. 1989. Effect of selected anthelmintics on three common helminthes in the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis). J. Wildlife Diseases 25: 139-142.
  • Harrison, P. 1996. Seabirds of the World: A Photographic Guide. Princeton Univ. Press. Princeton, NJ. USA. 317 pp.
  • Kale II, HW & DS Maehr. 1990. Florida's Birds. Pineapple Press. Sarasota, FL. USA. 288 pp.
  • Klein, ML, Humphrey, SR & HF Percival. 1995. Effects of ecotourism on distribution of waterbirds in a wildlife refuge. Conserv. Biol. 9: 1454-1465.
  • Kushlan, JA & PC Frohring. 1985. Decreases in the brown pelican population in southern Florida. Colonial Waterbirds 8: 83-95.
  • Mattiucci, S, Paoletti, M, Olivero-Verbel, J, Baldiris, R, Arroyo-Salgado, B, Garbin, L, Navone, G & G Nascetti. 2008. Contracaecum bioccai n. sp. from the brown pelican Pelecanus occidentalis (L.) in Columbia (Nematoda: Anisakidae): morphology, molecular evidence and its genetic relationship with congeners from fish-eating birds. Syst. Parasitol. 69: 101-121.
  • Peterson, RT. 1980. A Field Guide to the Birds: A Completely New Guide to All the Birds of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin. Boston, MA. USA. 384 pp.S
  • Schreiber, RW & EA Schreiber. 1983. Use of age-classes in monitoring population stability of brown pelicans. J. Wildl. Manage. 47: 105-111.
  • Schreiber, RW & PJ Mock. 1988. Eastern brown pelicans: What does 60 years of banding tell us? J. Field Ornithol. 59: 171-182.
  • Terres, JK. 1980. The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. USA. 1109 pp.
  • USFWS. Brown Pelican: Endangered Species Success Story. Biologue Series. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Zamparo, D, Overstreet, RM & DR Brooks. 2005. A new species of Petasiger (Digenea: Echonostomiformes: Echinostomatidae) in the brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, (Aves: Pelecaniformes: Pelecanidae), from the Area de Conservación Guanacaste, Costa Rica. J. Parasitol. 91: 1465-1467.
  • chreiber, RW. 1980. Nesting chronology of the eastern brown pelican. The Auk 97: 491-508.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce

Source: Indian River Lagoon Species Inventory

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Diagnostic Description

Differs from the white pelican (PELECANUS ERYTHRORHYNCHOS) in being mainly grayish brown overall instead of white.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Look Alikes

The brown pelican and the Peruvian pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis thagus, are the only true marine pelican species (Harrison 1996). The ranges of the two species rarely overlap, facilitating identification of the birds in their native habitats. However, if directly compared, the brown pelican can be distinguished by a smaller body size, duller plumage, smaller crest and an upperwing lacking the pale forewing patch characteristic of the Peruvian subspecies.The American white pelican, P. erythrorhynchos, is also quite similar to the brown pelican. However, unlike P. occidentalis, the white pelican is larger, bears white plumage in all seasons, and often inhabits inland prairies and coastal areas near freshwater (Farrand 1983). Flight Patterns & Locomotion: While in flight, the brown pelican folds its neck back in a similar fashion to a heron (Farrand 1983), staying aloft with alternating strong strokes and glides. Small flocks of individuals may fly in various formations, and often skim just above the surface of the water. Flight speeds of some individuals have been recorded up to 35 mph (Terres 1980). Birds are clumsy on land, but maneuver effectively in the water and swim well (USFWS 1995).
  • Carl, RA. 1987. Age-class variation in foraging techniques by brown pelicans. The Condor 89: 525-533.
  • FNAI. 2001. Field Guide to the Rare Animals of Florida. Florida Natural Areas Inventory. Online at http://www.fnai.org/fieldguides.cfm (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • FWCC. 2003. Florida's Breeding Bird Atlas: A Collaborative Study of Florida's Birdlife. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Online at http://www.myfwc.com/bba/ (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • FWCC. 2009. Florida's endangered species, threatened species, and species of special concern. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Online at http://myfwc.com/WILDLIFEHABITATS/imperiledSpp_index.htm (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • Farrand Jr., J (Ed.). 1983. The Audubon Society Master Guide to Birding Volume 1: Loons to Sandpipers. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. USA. 447 pp.
  • Federal Register. 2009. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removal of the Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Final Rule. Department of the Interior. Fish and Wildlife Service. Federal Register Vol.17, No. 20. Online at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=2009_register&docid=fr17no09-14 (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • Grimes, J, Suto, B, Greve. JH & HF Albers. 1989. Effect of selected anthelmintics on three common helminthes in the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis). J. Wildlife Diseases 25: 139-142.
  • Harrison, P. 1996. Seabirds of the World: A Photographic Guide. Princeton Univ. Press. Princeton, NJ. USA. 317 pp.
  • Kale II, HW & DS Maehr. 1990. Florida's Birds. Pineapple Press. Sarasota, FL. USA. 288 pp.
  • Klein, ML, Humphrey, SR & HF Percival. 1995. Effects of ecotourism on distribution of waterbirds in a wildlife refuge. Conserv. Biol. 9: 1454-1465.
  • Kushlan, JA & PC Frohring. 1985. Decreases in the brown pelican population in southern Florida. Colonial Waterbirds 8: 83-95.
  • Mattiucci, S, Paoletti, M, Olivero-Verbel, J, Baldiris, R, Arroyo-Salgado, B, Garbin, L, Navone, G & G Nascetti. 2008. Contracaecum bioccai n. sp. from the brown pelican Pelecanus occidentalis (L.) in Columbia (Nematoda: Anisakidae): morphology, molecular evidence and its genetic relationship with congeners from fish-eating birds. Syst. Parasitol. 69: 101-121.
  • Peterson, RT. 1980. A Field Guide to the Birds: A Completely New Guide to All the Birds of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin. Boston, MA. USA. 384 pp.S
  • Schreiber, RW & EA Schreiber. 1983. Use of age-classes in monitoring population stability of brown pelicans. J. Wildl. Manage. 47: 105-111.
  • Schreiber, RW & PJ Mock. 1988. Eastern brown pelicans: What does 60 years of banding tell us? J. Field Ornithol. 59: 171-182.
  • Terres, JK. 1980. The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. USA. 1109 pp.
  • USFWS. Brown Pelican: Endangered Species Success Story. Biologue Series. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Zamparo, D, Overstreet, RM & DR Brooks. 2005. A new species of Petasiger (Digenea: Echonostomiformes: Echinostomatidae) in the brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, (Aves: Pelecaniformes: Pelecanidae), from the Area de Conservación Guanacaste, Costa Rica. J. Parasitol. 91: 1465-1467.
  • chreiber, RW. 1980. Nesting chronology of the eastern brown pelican. The Auk 97: 491-508.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce

Source: Indian River Lagoon Species Inventory

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Ecology

Habitat

Pelicans are strictly coastal, rarely living more than 20 miles or 32 km from the shoreline. They are found in warm coastal waters or marine estuaries during the non-breeding season. They require dry areas that are not subjected to frequent disturbance. They roost offshore at night and loaf during the day after or while foraging. Typical loaf and roost sites include sandbars, pilings, jetties, breakwaters, mangrove islets, and offshore rocks or islands. To breed, they move to small, predator-free islands. On the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, brown pelicans are found breeding on barrier islands, natural estuarine islands, or dredge-spoil islands. Along the Pacific Coast and the northern Gulf of California they breed on dry, rocky islands. In mainland Mexico, they are found in mangroves. In the tropics, they inhabit coastal and inland mangroves and humid forests.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial ; saltwater or marine

Aquatic Biomes: coastal

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp

Other Habitat Features: urban ; estuarine

  • Tangley, L. 2009. Oil Spill Hammers Brown Pelicans. National Wildlife, 48/6: 12-14.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species inhabits shallow inshore waters, estuaries and bays, avoiding the open sea. Its diet is comprised mostly of fish, causing great congregations in areas with abundant prey. Prey species include sardines and anchovies, but has been seem to take shrimps and carrion, and even nestling egrets. It regularly feeds by plunge-diving and is often the victim of kleptoparasites. The timing of breeding varies depending on latitude, breeding in spring in the extreme north of its range compared to all year round in the tropics. Brown Pelicans are colonial, with some colonies being maintained over several years. It mostly nests on the ground, sometimes on cliffs and less often in small trees or bushes. Movements and migrations depend on local conditions (e.g. northern populations migrate south) (del Hoyo et al. 1992).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
  • Marine
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Comments: Brown pelicans inhabitat mainly coastal waters and rarely are seen inland or far out at sea. They feed mostly in shallow estuarine waters, less often up to 40 miles from shore. They make extensive use of sand spits, offshore sand bars, and islets for nocturnal roosting and daily loafing, especially nonbreeders and during the non-nesting season. Dry roosting sites are essential.

Nesting occurs usually on coastal islands, on the ground or in small bushes and trees (Palmer 1962), including the middle or upper parts of steep rocky slopes of small islands in California and Baja California and low-lying islands landward of barrier islands or reefs on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, where nests often are in mangroves, sometimes in Australian "pines," red-cedars, live oaks, redbays, or sea grapes. In the subtropics and tropics, mangrove vegetation constitutes an important roosting and nesting substrate (Collazo and Klaas 1985, Schreiber 1979, Schreiber and Schreiber 1982). Brown pelican may shift among different breeding sites, apparently in response to changing food supply distribution (Anderson and Gress 1983) and/or to erosion/flooding of nesting sites.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Depth range based on 5052 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 1054 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
  Temperature range (°C): 12.220 - 27.601
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.240 - 3.951
  Salinity (PPS): 30.381 - 36.362
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.518 - 6.395
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.101 - 0.674
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.868 - 16.169

Graphical representation

Temperature range (°C): 12.220 - 27.601

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.240 - 3.951

Salinity (PPS): 30.381 - 36.362

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.518 - 6.395

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.101 - 0.674

Silicate (umol/l): 0.868 - 16.169
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Many stay close to nesting areas in winter. A portion of the eastern subspecies migrates to Florida, the Caribbean coasts of Colombia and Venezuela, and the Greater Antilles for winter. During cold winters, some Texas breeders winter along the Gulf Coast of Mexico. Individuals from breeding areas north of Florida winter mainly in Florida and Cuba; young and adults from Florida breeding colonies are more sedentary (young generally do not disperse more than 250 km from natal areas, adults may move up to 450-575 km from colony during the nonbreeding season) (Johnsgard 1993).

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Trophic Strategy

Brown pelicans are carnivores, primarily feeding on fish but also small marine invertebrates. They are the only pelicans that dive for their food. Their astounding eyesight while in flight allows them to dive from up to 20 meters in the air. Although their eyesight is poor underwater, they can often be observed floating and feeding by surface-seizing with success. The lower jaw is split into two halves which turn out upon impact with the water's surface, forming a scoop with the gular pouch. Brown pelicans forage up to 20 km from their nesting sites and can travel up to 175 km from the mainland and 75 km from an island during non-breeding season from fall to early winter. Most are observed foraging close to shore but there are records of them diving up to 20 miles offshore and they are almost never seen feeding in freshwater lakes or streams. They are typically solitary while foraging, but if two or more forage together they will feed in sequence, driving fish towards the other(s). Foraging is most commonly observed in early morning and evening and occasionally at night during a full moon. Florida pelicans forage on small fish and some marine invertebrates in shallow waters, typically in water less than 150 meters deep.

Herring and fry fish in the Virgin Islands have been studied as being the fish of choice after being driven to the surface by other predatory fish such as sharks, salmon, and dolphins. From Cuba to Bermuda, stomach contents have shown herring, anchovies, sardines, and fry to all be consumed most frequently. Begging and scavenging on piers, docks, and boats can also make up a good portion of a their diet if they live within range of any of these. Laughing gulls (Laris atricilla) often steal food from their beaks, sometimes perching on their back and waiting for the opportunity. Although rare, brown pelicans have been observed stealing fish from the beaks of other birds as well.

The young are fed through regurgitation of pre-digested fish onto the nest floor and as much as 50 kg of fish is consumed from the hatchling to fledgling stage when raised in captivity. Although no comparable data has been collected on wild brown pelicans, captive adult pelicans have been recorded requiring 0.3 kg of fish per day during the summer months and 0.8 kg of fish per day during the winter months.

Not surprisingly, adult pelicans are more successful hunters than younger birds. A study in Southwest Mexico found that adult pelicans are successful 84% of time compared to only 75% of the time in juveniles. An even greater discrepancy was seen in a study done in Belize; adults were successful 83% of the time where juveniles only had a success rate of 43%. These differences in feeding success could be attributed to diving and prey-handling skills, patch choice, knowledge of appropriate dive heights, angles, and ability to determine likelihood of success. Adult birds were seen "wheeling" in the air but if chance of successful foraging was determined to be low they would continue flying. Juveniles would always dive after a "wheel" regardless of interpreted success, therefore wasting more energy when not successful. A study done in Florida showed a linear correlation between age of the brown pelican and success rate: pelicans less than one year old had 4% success rate, 12 to 22 month old pelicans had a 8% success rate, 22 to 40 month old pelicans had a 12% success rate, and adults older than 36 months had a success rate of 14%.

Brown pelicans are able to drink saltwater due to the salt gland that is unique to birds (although non-functional and smaller in birds that are not exposed to high salinity) which excretes excess salt. These glands are located on the anterior sides of the eyes and are 2.6 to 3cm in length and 0.6 to 0.8 cm in width. These glands are necessary because the kidney is only able to rid the body of half the salt ingested. These glands are able to excrete salt in such high concentrations that it makes the drinking of saltwater tolerable and aids in conservation of water.

Animal Foods: fish; aquatic crustaceans; other marine invertebrates

Primary Diet: carnivore (Piscivore )

  • Brandt, C. 1984. Age and Hunting Success in the Brown Pelican: Influences of Skill and Patch Choice on Forgaging Efficiency. Oecologia, 62/1: 132-137.
  • Carl, R. 1987. Age-class variation in foraging techniques by Brown Pelicans. Condor, 89/3: 525-533.
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The California Brown Pelican recovery plan. 1448-1342-98-N015. Washington, D.C.: USFWS. 1983.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Comments: Eats mainly fishes, especially menhaden, mullet, sardines, pinfish, and anchovies in U.S. waters; sometimes euphausiids; dives into water from air (USFWS 1980). Feeds by diving in deeper water, by swimming, sometimes in cooperative groups, in shallower water (Hilty and Brown 1986). Rarely reported scavenging or preying on eggs or young of water birds. Forages in shallow estuarine and inshore waters mostly within 10 km of the coast (Johnsgard 1993).

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

The brown pelican feeds exclusively on marine fishes and occasional crustaceans by diving into the water head-first from heights of 6 to over 15 meters, capturing up to 4 pounds of prey daily with its long, slender beak (Farrand 1983; USFWS 1995; Harrison 1996). Studies have suggested that the height and angle of these dives vary with the age and skill level of the bird, and dive paths are altered to reduce glare on the surface of the water that may hinder catch success (Carl 1987). The large pouch below the bill acts as dip net to catch prey, but also holds fish for consumption until the water, as much as three gallons, is squeezed out. Once the water is removed, the prey is swallowed. In addition to catching and holding prey, the pouch also serves as a cooling mechanism for the bird in warm weather and a feeding trough for young (USFWS 1995).Predators: Little information is available concerning predators of the brown pelican. Due to their size and long sturdy bill, it is unlikely that adult birds are regularly preyed upon. However, birds of prey, alligators or large mammals could potentially consume eggs and hatchlings.Parasites: Like many other bird species, the brown pelican acts as a terminal or final host for several parasites acquired from a variety of prey items, including the parasitic worms Petagiger sp., Echinochasmus sp., Phagicola longus, Mesostephanus appendiculatoides, Contracaecum multipapillatum, and C. bioccai acquired from the black mullet, Mugil cephalus, the silver mullet, M. curema and other fish prey (Grimes et al. 1989; Zamparo et al. 2005; Mattiucci et al. 2008). Most of these parasites infect the gut, with some imposing minimal negative impacts on the pelican, while others are more virulent or increase the probability of infections by secondary pathogens (e.g. Grimes et al. 1989).
  • Carl, RA. 1987. Age-class variation in foraging techniques by brown pelicans. The Condor 89: 525-533.
  • FNAI. 2001. Field Guide to the Rare Animals of Florida. Florida Natural Areas Inventory. Online at http://www.fnai.org/fieldguides.cfm (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • FWCC. 2003. Florida's Breeding Bird Atlas: A Collaborative Study of Florida's Birdlife. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Online at http://www.myfwc.com/bba/ (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • FWCC. 2009. Florida's endangered species, threatened species, and species of special concern. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Online at http://myfwc.com/WILDLIFEHABITATS/imperiledSpp_index.htm (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • Farrand Jr., J (Ed.). 1983. The Audubon Society Master Guide to Birding Volume 1: Loons to Sandpipers. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. USA. 447 pp.
  • Federal Register. 2009. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removal of the Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Final Rule. Department of the Interior. Fish and Wildlife Service. Federal Register Vol.17, No. 20. Online at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=2009_register&docid=fr17no09-14 (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • Grimes, J, Suto, B, Greve. JH & HF Albers. 1989. Effect of selected anthelmintics on three common helminthes in the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis). J. Wildlife Diseases 25: 139-142.
  • Harrison, P. 1996. Seabirds of the World: A Photographic Guide. Princeton Univ. Press. Princeton, NJ. USA. 317 pp.
  • Kale II, HW & DS Maehr. 1990. Florida's Birds. Pineapple Press. Sarasota, FL. USA. 288 pp.
  • Klein, ML, Humphrey, SR & HF Percival. 1995. Effects of ecotourism on distribution of waterbirds in a wildlife refuge. Conserv. Biol. 9: 1454-1465.
  • Kushlan, JA & PC Frohring. 1985. Decreases in the brown pelican population in southern Florida. Colonial Waterbirds 8: 83-95.
  • Mattiucci, S, Paoletti, M, Olivero-Verbel, J, Baldiris, R, Arroyo-Salgado, B, Garbin, L, Navone, G & G Nascetti. 2008. Contracaecum bioccai n. sp. from the brown pelican Pelecanus occidentalis (L.) in Columbia (Nematoda: Anisakidae): morphology, molecular evidence and its genetic relationship with congeners from fish-eating birds. Syst. Parasitol. 69: 101-121.
  • Peterson, RT. 1980. A Field Guide to the Birds: A Completely New Guide to All the Birds of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin. Boston, MA. USA. 384 pp.S
  • Schreiber, RW & EA Schreiber. 1983. Use of age-classes in monitoring population stability of brown pelicans. J. Wildl. Manage. 47: 105-111.
  • Schreiber, RW & PJ Mock. 1988. Eastern brown pelicans: What does 60 years of banding tell us? J. Field Ornithol. 59: 171-182.
  • Terres, JK. 1980. The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. USA. 1109 pp.
  • USFWS. Brown Pelican: Endangered Species Success Story. Biologue Series. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Zamparo, D, Overstreet, RM & DR Brooks. 2005. A new species of Petasiger (Digenea: Echonostomiformes: Echinostomatidae) in the brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, (Aves: Pelecaniformes: Pelecanidae), from the Area de Conservación Guanacaste, Costa Rica. J. Parasitol. 91: 1465-1467.
  • chreiber, RW. 1980. Nesting chronology of the eastern brown pelican. The Auk 97: 491-508.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce

Source: Indian River Lagoon Species Inventory

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Associations

Fowl ticks Carios maritimus and Ornithodoros denmarki are found in nests, but there are no documented cases of illness or death from these ectoparasites. Hippoboscid flies (Olfersia sordida) and epidermoptid mites (Myialges caulotoon) are two ectoparasites found on brown pelicans in the Galapagos Islands. In large numbers, mosquitoes can cause nest abandonment. Phagicola longus, Mesostephanus appendiculatoides, Galactostomum darbyi, and Stephanoprora denticulata are the four most prevalent of the 31 known helminths that inhabit the small intestine. One study found a mean of 7,134 helminths per bird, however, no known deaths have occurred as a result of these. Three species of diplostomes have been found in the small intestines of brown pelicans in Texas, which are Bolbophorus confusus, Bursacetabulus pelecanus, and Bursacetabulus macrobursus. Endoparasitic mites from the family Hypoderidae have been removed in subcutaneous tissues of the neck and trachea from brown pelicans in Florida and Louisiana. These include Phalacrodectes punctatissimus, Phalacrodectes pelecani, and Pelecanectes apunctatus. A study done on nestlings in Florida also found Coccidian sporozoa from Eimeria pelecani in fecal samples.

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Humans, Homo sapiens are a serious predator of pelicans, hunting them for their meat, feathers, and eggs. Predatory birds, such as the fish crow (Corvus ossifragu) have been recorded destroying pelican eggs. Although it is rare, bobcats (Felis rufus) have been documented eating both the offspring and injured adults. Feral cats (Felis catus), feral dogs (Canus lupus familiaris), and raccoons (Procyon lotor) will eat the hatchlings when they are able. Two reptiles have been recorded preying on nestlings: Mexican spiny-tailed iguanas (Ctenosaura pectinata) and the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis). Invasive species such as red imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) have infested nests and killed up to 60% of hatchlings in some calses. Although predation on adults is rare, they are occasionally attacked by sharks and sea lions (Otaria flavescens) while floating on the water. When approached by a predator, brown pelicans will usually flee individually without group cohesion. If it is during the incubation or brooding periods, parents will attempt to scare an approaching predator away before fleeing.

Known Predators:

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Although there are no obligate associations documented between the brown pelican and other species, P. occidentalis is commonly found alongside other organisms from the seagrass beds, mangrove forests, tidal flats and other ecosystems in which it resides. For more extensive information on these environments and their associated species found in the IRL, please visit the Habitats of the IRL page.
  • Carl, RA. 1987. Age-class variation in foraging techniques by brown pelicans. The Condor 89: 525-533.
  • FNAI. 2001. Field Guide to the Rare Animals of Florida. Florida Natural Areas Inventory. Online at http://www.fnai.org/fieldguides.cfm (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • FWCC. 2003. Florida's Breeding Bird Atlas: A Collaborative Study of Florida's Birdlife. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Online at http://www.myfwc.com/bba/ (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • FWCC. 2009. Florida's endangered species, threatened species, and species of special concern. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Online at http://myfwc.com/WILDLIFEHABITATS/imperiledSpp_index.htm (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • Farrand Jr., J (Ed.). 1983. The Audubon Society Master Guide to Birding Volume 1: Loons to Sandpipers. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. USA. 447 pp.
  • Federal Register. 2009. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removal of the Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Final Rule. Department of the Interior. Fish and Wildlife Service. Federal Register Vol.17, No. 20. Online at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=2009_register&docid=fr17no09-14 (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • Grimes, J, Suto, B, Greve. JH & HF Albers. 1989. Effect of selected anthelmintics on three common helminthes in the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis). J. Wildlife Diseases 25: 139-142.
  • Harrison, P. 1996. Seabirds of the World: A Photographic Guide. Princeton Univ. Press. Princeton, NJ. USA. 317 pp.
  • Kale II, HW & DS Maehr. 1990. Florida's Birds. Pineapple Press. Sarasota, FL. USA. 288 pp.
  • Klein, ML, Humphrey, SR & HF Percival. 1995. Effects of ecotourism on distribution of waterbirds in a wildlife refuge. Conserv. Biol. 9: 1454-1465.
  • Kushlan, JA & PC Frohring. 1985. Decreases in the brown pelican population in southern Florida. Colonial Waterbirds 8: 83-95.
  • Mattiucci, S, Paoletti, M, Olivero-Verbel, J, Baldiris, R, Arroyo-Salgado, B, Garbin, L, Navone, G & G Nascetti. 2008. Contracaecum bioccai n. sp. from the brown pelican Pelecanus occidentalis (L.) in Columbia (Nematoda: Anisakidae): morphology, molecular evidence and its genetic relationship with congeners from fish-eating birds. Syst. Parasitol. 69: 101-121.
  • Peterson, RT. 1980. A Field Guide to the Birds: A Completely New Guide to All the Birds of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin. Boston, MA. USA. 384 pp.S
  • Schreiber, RW & EA Schreiber. 1983. Use of age-classes in monitoring population stability of brown pelicans. J. Wildl. Manage. 47: 105-111.
  • Schreiber, RW & PJ Mock. 1988. Eastern brown pelicans: What does 60 years of banding tell us? J. Field Ornithol. 59: 171-182.
  • Terres, JK. 1980. The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. USA. 1109 pp.
  • USFWS. Brown Pelican: Endangered Species Success Story. Biologue Series. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Zamparo, D, Overstreet, RM & DR Brooks. 2005. A new species of Petasiger (Digenea: Echonostomiformes: Echinostomatidae) in the brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, (Aves: Pelecaniformes: Pelecanidae), from the Area de Conservación Guanacaste, Costa Rica. J. Parasitol. 91: 1465-1467.
  • chreiber, RW. 1980. Nesting chronology of the eastern brown pelican. The Auk 97: 491-508.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce

Source: Indian River Lagoon Species Inventory

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 81 to >300

Comments: Many occurrences are distributed throughout the coastal range in North, Central, and South America.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Global Abundance

100,000 - 1,000,000 individuals

Comments: Breeding population estimates (pairs): Virginia (50-100 in 1990; Byrd and Johnston 1991), North Carolina (2800), South Carolina (9800), Texas (500 in 1989), Florida (9950 in 1995), Louisiana (1098 in 1990); see Spendelow and Patton (1988) and Clapp and Buckley (1984). Florida's 1995 nesting population was assumed to represent a total population of between 27,100 and 43,800 individuals. Breeding populations in Panama and Mexico are believed to be very large (i.e., 50,000+ birds and 40,000 pairs, respectively) (Crivelli and Anderson 1984), though subject to considerable fluctuation. Subspecies CALIFORNICUS: total population was about 48,500 pairs in the late 1980s; 3000 pairs in southern California, 33,000 pairs in Gulf of California, 7500 pairs on islands off mainland Mexico, and 5000 pairs in southwestern Baja California. Southern California Bight population was about 4200 pairs in 1989 (California Department of Fish and Game 1990). Populations elsewhere are poorly known.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Brown pelicans are quite abundant along the east coast of the U.S., although populations in parts of the Gulf of Mexico, along the Pacific coast and in Central and South America are still continuing to recover from past populations declines (see 'Threats & Conservation' below).
  • Carl, RA. 1987. Age-class variation in foraging techniques by brown pelicans. The Condor 89: 525-533.
  • FNAI. 2001. Field Guide to the Rare Animals of Florida. Florida Natural Areas Inventory. Online at http://www.fnai.org/fieldguides.cfm (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • FWCC. 2003. Florida's Breeding Bird Atlas: A Collaborative Study of Florida's Birdlife. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Online at http://www.myfwc.com/bba/ (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • FWCC. 2009. Florida's endangered species, threatened species, and species of special concern. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Online at http://myfwc.com/WILDLIFEHABITATS/imperiledSpp_index.htm (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • Farrand Jr., J (Ed.). 1983. The Audubon Society Master Guide to Birding Volume 1: Loons to Sandpipers. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. USA. 447 pp.
  • Federal Register. 2009. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removal of the Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Final Rule. Department of the Interior. Fish and Wildlife Service. Federal Register Vol.17, No. 20. Online at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=2009_register&docid=fr17no09-14 (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • Grimes, J, Suto, B, Greve. JH & HF Albers. 1989. Effect of selected anthelmintics on three common helminthes in the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis). J. Wildlife Diseases 25: 139-142.
  • Harrison, P. 1996. Seabirds of the World: A Photographic Guide. Princeton Univ. Press. Princeton, NJ. USA. 317 pp.
  • Kale II, HW & DS Maehr. 1990. Florida's Birds. Pineapple Press. Sarasota, FL. USA. 288 pp.
  • Klein, ML, Humphrey, SR & HF Percival. 1995. Effects of ecotourism on distribution of waterbirds in a wildlife refuge. Conserv. Biol. 9: 1454-1465.
  • Kushlan, JA & PC Frohring. 1985. Decreases in the brown pelican population in southern Florida. Colonial Waterbirds 8: 83-95.
  • Mattiucci, S, Paoletti, M, Olivero-Verbel, J, Baldiris, R, Arroyo-Salgado, B, Garbin, L, Navone, G & G Nascetti. 2008. Contracaecum bioccai n. sp. from the brown pelican Pelecanus occidentalis (L.) in Columbia (Nematoda: Anisakidae): morphology, molecular evidence and its genetic relationship with congeners from fish-eating birds. Syst. Parasitol. 69: 101-121.
  • Peterson, RT. 1980. A Field Guide to the Birds: A Completely New Guide to All the Birds of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin. Boston, MA. USA. 384 pp.S
  • Schreiber, RW & EA Schreiber. 1983. Use of age-classes in monitoring population stability of brown pelicans. J. Wildl. Manage. 47: 105-111.
  • Schreiber, RW & PJ Mock. 1988. Eastern brown pelicans: What does 60 years of banding tell us? J. Field Ornithol. 59: 171-182.
  • Terres, JK. 1980. The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. USA. 1109 pp.
  • USFWS. Brown Pelican: Endangered Species Success Story. Biologue Series. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Zamparo, D, Overstreet, RM & DR Brooks. 2005. A new species of Petasiger (Digenea: Echonostomiformes: Echinostomatidae) in the brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, (Aves: Pelecaniformes: Pelecanidae), from the Area de Conservación Guanacaste, Costa Rica. J. Parasitol. 91: 1465-1467.
  • chreiber, RW. 1980. Nesting chronology of the eastern brown pelican. The Auk 97: 491-508.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce

Source: Indian River Lagoon Species Inventory

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

General Ecology

Populations fluctuate considerably from year to year and from place to place.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Brown pelicans communicate through visual cues, chemical signals, acoustically, and in a tactile manner. Adult brown pelicans will communicate, particularly during mate selection and nest site protection, with a low "hrraa-hrraa" sound and head swaying. Other interactions include bowing, which is usually more of a defensive behavior. Non-aggressive behaviors include swinging of head side to side, raising of bill horizontally and spreading wings outward, and cleaning the opposite side of the nearby pelican. Peeps from eggs can be heard up to 2 days prior to the start of hatching. Nestlings release a high pitched, scratchy call to their parents usually while the parents are searching for food.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Cyclicity

Comments: Most activity diurnal, little during twilight.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life Expectancy

Brown pelicans have a long lifespan. The oldest individual recorded in the wild was 43 years of age. About 30% of brown pelicans survive past the first year, and less than 2% survive longer than 10 years. Three banded individuals survived past the 20 year mark at 31, 37, and 43 years old. However these data may be incomplete because bands may corrode and fall off after 12 to 15 years. Hatched nestlings have been frequently recorded killing younger siblings either by directly pecking them on head or pushing them from nest, as well as indirectly by not allowing them to feed. The first hatched chick has a survival rate of 70% and one study found that up to 30% of nestlings in one breeding season were killed by the older sibling.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
43 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
334 months.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 43 years Observations: Banding studies suggest that only 30% of animals survive their first year of life and less than 2% live more than 10 years. Maximum longevity is 43 years (http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/).
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Joao Pedro de Magalhaes

Source: AnAge

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Reproduction

Brown pelicans are seasonally monogamous and nest in irregular patterns. They migrate to 20 to 30 degrees north latitude to breed if they do not live in this range year-round. Nesting lasts throughout the year in certain tropical regions, but generally begins in late fall and lasts into early June. Those which nest between 20 and 30 degrees north latitude nest more regularly through winter into spring. However, those which nest 30 to 35 degrees north of the equator nest definitively in the spring and summer seasons. Nesting is controlled by a variety of factors including: time to nest successfully, molt length, day length fluctuations, food abundance, time when freezing temperatures occur, and timing of hurricane season. Local environmental conditions are the main factor in determining nesting seasons. Sites are used annually until changes in nesting habitat, food availability, or human disturbances induce colony relocation. Breeding locations are ideally within 30 to 50 km of a consistent food supply.

Male brown pelicans select a nest site prior to courtship and pair bond formation. Males protect a potential nest area and nearby perches for up to 3 weeks. Males initiate courtship rituals but both males and females participate. Rituals include head swaying, bowing, and turning. Both sexes also release a "low raaa" call. Courtship typically lasts 2 to 4 days before pair bonding occurs, but can last up to 21 days. As part of the pair bonding and nest building ritual, males present females with nesting materials. Building the nest can take up to 7 days. The first egg is laid 3 days after the completion of the nest.

Mating System: monogamous

The breeding season of brown pelicans varies with latitude, often coinciding with local food abundance. In Maryland, they begin to lay eggs in late May through early September with peaks of egg laying varying between years. In North Carolina, the laying season is mid-March through July. In Florida, egg laying periods vary from east to west coasts; egg laying is December to June on the Atlantic coast and January to June on the Gulf side. In Louisiana, the egg laying season was March to June up until the near extinction of the pelican population in this area. The new population now begins either in December or January and ends in June. Texas populations begin in March and last through June, with egg output peaking in April through May. In south California, egg laying starts in December, lasts until early August and peaks between February and May. In the Gulf of California, egg laying is November until May. In Panama, egg laying lasts from January until May. In west and southwest Puerto Rico, breeding peaks between September and November but in eastern Puerto Rico, brown pelicans breed year-round. In Venezuela, the breeding season is from November to June, peaking between January and February. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as the Galapagos Islands, breeding is year-round.

Copulation occurs about 7 times before the first egg is laid and each act lasts 7 to 14 seconds. During copulation, the male grabs the female's upper neck with his bill, mounts her from behind, and holds her neck in this way until the act is over. The female is passive except for movements of her tail from side to side. Males perform a post mounting display by holding their bill open with their head set back upon the shoulders. Sometimes males will put on displays including bill throws and glottis exposure.

After courtship, pairs build nests in trees or on the ground, and stay in colonies. The optimal spot for ground nests is in medium-density vegetation 1 to 2 meters off the ground. This location allows their offspring to leave the nest earlier than those in trees, some as early as 3 weeks old. The most ideal location for a nest in a tree is a spot with nearby branches adequate for landing and taking off. Male brown pelicans bring the nest-building materials while females build the nests. Material is dependent on what is available at the nest site. Ground nests can be as simple as a shallow depression in the sands lined with grass or as complex as a full structure built out of sticks, grass stems, and seaweed. Nests in trees are typically made up of sticks, grass, or leaves. Males have been documented stealing from unattended nests as well as using man-made materials such as rope or window screening. Males will continue to bring the female building materials during incubation and until juveniles reach fledgling age.

Eggs have a textured surface and are chalky white in color. The number of eggs laid ranges from 1 to 4. Adult brown pelicans lay 3 eggs per season on average, while juvenile pelicans less than 3 years old lay no more than 2 eggs. Pelicans incubate eggs with their webbed feet. Both parents share responsibility for turning and incubating the eggs as well as protecting them from predation. The incubation period typically lasts 29 to 32 days and only about 70% of eggs laid in a season will hatch. Eggs are laid in 24 to 64 hour intervals but will still hatch within 1 day of one another. Brown pelicans in captivity have laid eggs to replace those lost during the nesting season. Brown pelican chicks have a have an egg-tooth on the tip of their beak which they use on the broadest part of the egg to break open the shell. After the initial peck, it usually takes 31 hours for the chicks to fully hatch. Initial weight of brown pelican chicks ranges from 54.9 to 87 grams with an average weight of 73.5 grams. Ten grams of this weight is egg yolk withheld in the abdomen. The egg tooth disappears within 10 days of hatching.

Newly hatched chicks have pinkish gray skin covered in fluff. On postnatal day 9, the chicks' skin has darkened. By day 10, they are lightly covered in a layer of white down which is fully developed by day 20. The legs and feet of brown pelicans less than 24 days old are a dull white color. This quickly changes to a dark grey or black when they are juveniles and into adulthood. Juvenile feathers appear at day 30 and these are kept until adult feathers develop by age 3. They fledge at 11 weeks and are considered independent at 3 months. At this time, they abandon the nest but stay within the vicinity of their birth site. A study found that after forced relocation, most returned to their birth site within 3 years. Those which did not return founded new colonies instead of joining existing ones. Variation in the choice to return or not seemed dependent on food availability and suitable locations for nesting. These nesting areas need to be dry due to the fact that pelicans cannot be directly exposed to water for over an hour without becoming waterlogged. Brown pelicans can mate as young as 2 but the average is 3 to 4 years old.

Breeding interval: Brown pelicans breed seasonally in colder climates and year-round in warmer climates.

Breeding season: The breeding season varies with latitude and often depends on local food availability.

Range eggs per season: 2 to 3.

Average eggs per season: 3.

Range time to hatching: 29 to 30 days.

Average time to hatching: 30 days.

Average fledging age: 11 weeks.

Average time to independence: 3 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 to 4 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 3-4 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 to 4 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3-4 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; oviparous

Average eggs per season: 2.

Both males and females work together to build the nest, incubate the eggs, protect the nest, feed and protect the young, and teach the offspring how to fly. Parents alternate guarding the nest until the offspring are 4 to 6 weeks old. Nestlings are ectothermic at birth and rely on their parents to maintain internal temperature. The development of endothermy begins with increased mass, changes in metabolic rates, and an increase in downy feathers. Initially young brown pelicans feed by pecking regurgitated fish off the nest floor, but as coordination increases, they begin to feed directly from their parents' mouths. After the first 4 to 6 weeks, parents spend less time in the nest and mostly return to feed their young. At 5 to 6 weeks, the parents no longer roost in the nest at night, but rather on nearby perches. Parents feed the young until 11 to 12 weeks of age, when the young reach the fledgling stage.

Parental Investment: male parental care ; female parental care ; pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Male, Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Male, Female, Protecting: Male, Female)

  • Bartholomew, G., W. Dawsom. 1954. Temperature Regulation in Young Pelicans, Herons, and Gulls. Ecology, 35/4: 466-472.
  • Miller, J. 1983. The Family of Pelican. Science News, 124/4: 62.
  • Nellis, D. 2001. Common Coastal Birds of Florida & the Caribbean. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, Inc..
  • Robinson, O., J. Dindo. 2011. Egg Success, Hatching Success, and Nest-site Selection of Brown Pelicans, Gaillard Island, Alabama, US. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 123/2: 386-390.
  • Schreiber, R. 1980. Nesting Chronology of the Eastern Brown Pelican. The Auk, 97/3: 491-508.
  • Sheilds, M. 2002. The Birds of North America. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Along the west coast of North America, egg laying may occur from late winter to early spring (peak usually in March or April but may vary among colonies and from year to year). In southeastern North America, southern populations nest irregularly, usually beginning in late fall and extending through June; northernmost populations nest in spring and summer; intermediate populations nest, somewhat irregularly, in winter and spring. Clutch size averages 2-3. Incubation, by both sexes, lasts about 28-30 days. Young leave ground nests at about 35 days, first fly at 71-88 days; leave nests in mangroves at about 63 days. Some first breed at two years in some colonies (e.g., newly formed ones), possibly not until about four to seven years in stable populations (see Johnsgard 1993). Reproductive success varies with level of disturbance by humans, starvation of young, and/or flooding of nests, but typically the number of young fledged per nest averages one or less. This is a long-lived bird, and reproduction tends to be "boom or bust." Colonies include up to 150 pairs in Trinidad.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

P. occidentalis is a social species, gregarious throughout the year with colonial breeding behavior (Harrison 1996). Breeding dates vary with location, but most populations reproduce from March to August. At the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge in the IRL, breeding continues nearly year-round (Terres 1980).During the breeding season, nests in trees and bushes are constructed from straw or grass placed on mounds of sticks woven onto a supporting branch (Terres 1980). Ground nests are comprised of feather-lined impressions protected with a 10-25 cm rim of soil and debris. Pelicans usually lay 2-3 eggs at a time, incubating them for a period of 28-30 days (Terres 1980). Chicks in ground nests venture out by walking after approximately 35 days, while those in trees wait for about 65-80 days to fly from the nest.Hybrids of brown and white pelicans are possible, and one such offspring was on display at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. in 1937 (Terres 1980).Voice: Adult brown pelicans are silent, rarely emitting a low croak, while hatchlings frequently squeal (e.g. Peterson 1980).
  • Carl, RA. 1987. Age-class variation in foraging techniques by brown pelicans. The Condor 89: 525-533.
  • FNAI. 2001. Field Guide to the Rare Animals of Florida. Florida Natural Areas Inventory. Online at http://www.fnai.org/fieldguides.cfm (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • FWCC. 2003. Florida's Breeding Bird Atlas: A Collaborative Study of Florida's Birdlife. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Online at http://www.myfwc.com/bba/ (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • FWCC. 2009. Florida's endangered species, threatened species, and species of special concern. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Online at http://myfwc.com/WILDLIFEHABITATS/imperiledSpp_index.htm (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • Farrand Jr., J (Ed.). 1983. The Audubon Society Master Guide to Birding Volume 1: Loons to Sandpipers. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. USA. 447 pp.
  • Federal Register. 2009. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removal of the Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Final Rule. Department of the Interior. Fish and Wildlife Service. Federal Register Vol.17, No. 20. Online at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=2009_register&docid=fr17no09-14 (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • Grimes, J, Suto, B, Greve. JH & HF Albers. 1989. Effect of selected anthelmintics on three common helminthes in the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis). J. Wildlife Diseases 25: 139-142.
  • Harrison, P. 1996. Seabirds of the World: A Photographic Guide. Princeton Univ. Press. Princeton, NJ. USA. 317 pp.
  • Kale II, HW & DS Maehr. 1990. Florida's Birds. Pineapple Press. Sarasota, FL. USA. 288 pp.
  • Klein, ML, Humphrey, SR & HF Percival. 1995. Effects of ecotourism on distribution of waterbirds in a wildlife refuge. Conserv. Biol. 9: 1454-1465.
  • Kushlan, JA & PC Frohring. 1985. Decreases in the brown pelican population in southern Florida. Colonial Waterbirds 8: 83-95.
  • Mattiucci, S, Paoletti, M, Olivero-Verbel, J, Baldiris, R, Arroyo-Salgado, B, Garbin, L, Navone, G & G Nascetti. 2008. Contracaecum bioccai n. sp. from the brown pelican Pelecanus occidentalis (L.) in Columbia (Nematoda: Anisakidae): morphology, molecular evidence and its genetic relationship with congeners from fish-eating birds. Syst. Parasitol. 69: 101-121.
  • Peterson, RT. 1980. A Field Guide to the Birds: A Completely New Guide to All the Birds of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin. Boston, MA. USA. 384 pp.S
  • Schreiber, RW & EA Schreiber. 1983. Use of age-classes in monitoring population stability of brown pelicans. J. Wildl. Manage. 47: 105-111.
  • Schreiber, RW & PJ Mock. 1988. Eastern brown pelicans: What does 60 years of banding tell us? J. Field Ornithol. 59: 171-182.
  • Terres, JK. 1980. The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. USA. 1109 pp.
  • USFWS. Brown Pelican: Endangered Species Success Story. Biologue Series. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Zamparo, D, Overstreet, RM & DR Brooks. 2005. A new species of Petasiger (Digenea: Echonostomiformes: Echinostomatidae) in the brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, (Aves: Pelecaniformes: Pelecanidae), from the Area de Conservación Guanacaste, Costa Rica. J. Parasitol. 91: 1465-1467.
  • chreiber, RW. 1980. Nesting chronology of the eastern brown pelican. The Auk 97: 491-508.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce

Source: Indian River Lagoon Species Inventory

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Evolution and Systematics

Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Body protected from diving impact: brown pelican
 

The body of the brown pelican is protected from impact during plunge-diving thanks to subcutaneous air-sacs.

   
  "Several species of pelicans, boobies, and gannets have extensive subcutaneous air sacs.6,18 In the plunge-diving brown pelicans these air sacs are thought to serve as shock absorbers to decrease the impact of hitting water from great heights.6" (Fowler and Miller 2003:118)

Watch Video
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Fowler, ME; Miller, RE. 2003. Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Co.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© The Biomimicry Institute

Source: AskNature

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Pelecanus occidentalis

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 3 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

CGATGATTATTCTCAACCAACCACAAAGATATTGGCACCCTATACTTAATCTTCGGCGCATGAGCCGGAATAGTTGGAACAGCCCTT---AGCCTACTCATTCGGGCCGAACTAGGCCAGCCCGGAACCCTCTTGGGAGAT---GACCAAATCTATAATGTAATCGTCACTGCCCATGCCTTCGTAATAATCTTCTTCATAGTAATACCGATCATAATTGGAGGCTTTGGAAACTGACTAGTTCCCCTCATA---ATCGGCGCCCCGGACATAGCATTCCCACGTATAAACAACATAAGCTTCTGACTCCTACCCCCATCCTTCCTACTCCTCCTAGCCTCATCCACAGTAGAAGCAGGTGCAGGAACAGGATGAACTGTGTACCCCCCACTAGCTGGTAACCTAGCCCATGCCGGAGCCTCAGTAGATCTG---GCTATCTTCTCGCTTCACTTAGCAGGGGTATCCTCTATCCTAGGCGCAATCAACTTCATTACAACCGCCATCAACATAAAACCACCAGCCCTATCACAATATCAAACTCCATTATTCGTATGATCCGTCCTCATCACTGCCGTCCTACTACTATTATCCCTCCCAGTCTTAGCCGCC---GGCATCACCATACTCCTCACAGACCGAAACCTAAATACTACATTCTTCGACCCTGCTGGAGGAGGAGACCCAGTCCTATATCAGCACTTATTCTGATTTTTTGGCCACCCAGAAGTTTACATCCTGATCCTCCCAGGTTTTGGAATCATTTCACATGTGGTAGCATACTATGCCGGCAAAAAA---GAACCATTCGGATACATAGGGATGGTATGGGCCATACTATCCATCGGATTTTTAGGCTTCATTGTATGAGCCCACCACATATTCACAGTAGGAATGGACGTAGACACCCGAGCATACTTCACATCTGCCACCATAATTATCGCCATTCCAACTGGCATCAAAGTTTTCAGCTGATTG---GCTACACTCCACGGAGGC---ACTATTAAATGAGACCCTCCAATCCTGTGGGCCTTGGGCTTTATCTTCTTATTCACTATCGGAGGACTTACAGGCATCGTACTAGCAAACTCCTCCCTAGATATCGCCCTACACGACACATACTACGTAGTAGCTCATTTCCACTACGTC---CTATCCATAGGAGCCGTTTTTGCCATTCTAGCTGGATTCACTCACTGATTCCCCCTATTCACAGGATACACCCTACACCCCACATGAGCTAAGGCCCATTTCGGAGTCATATTCACAGGAGTTAACCTAACCTTCTTCCCACAACACTTCCTGGGCCTAGCTGGCATGCCACGA---CGATACTCAGATTACCCAGACGCCTACACC---CTATGAAACACCATGTCATCTATCGGCTCACTCATCTCAATAACAGCTGTTATTATATTAATGTTCATCATCTGAGAAGCCTTCGCATCAAAACGTAAAGTC---CTGCAGCCAGAGCTAACCACTACCAAC
-- end --

Download FASTA File

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Pelecanus occidentalis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 4
Specimens with Barcodes: 5
Species With Barcodes: 1
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Conservation

Conservation Status

The IUCN Red List classifies brown pelicans as a species of least concern and the US Federal list gives them no special status. In the 1950's and 1960's, DDT was used as a pesticide and subsequently was passed through the food chain up to brown pelicans. This bioaccumulation altered the brown pelicans' physiology, decreasing the egg shell strength and causing eggs to break during incubation. In 1968 a restocking effort took plan in Louisiana, lasting for several years until 1976. During this time period 767 nestlings, 8 to 11 weeks in age, were transported to Louisiana from Florida and 221 nested in the area in which they were released. Despite a die-off in 1975 of about 40% of the population due to Endrin contamination, the brown pelican reached historical population sizes by 1990. Brown pelican were listed as endangered in 1970 but DDT was not outlawed until 1972. In 1985, brown pelicans was downgraded to threatened and in 2009 the species was removed from the list completely. Human disturbance, fish hooks and lines, oil spills, and human activities such as hunting, egging, and trapping threaten brown pelican populations. Annual surveys have found stable to increasing population size along with nesting success being recorded as having a high success rate. Pelicans are adjusted to boom-bust cycles and have adapted to hurricanes and El Nino effects which lower food availability. However, the long-term effects of the Gulf oil spill of 2010 are still unknown. During the oil spill, pelicans were the hardest hit, comprising 58% of bird mortality and injuries.

US Migratory Bird Act: no special status

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

  • Nesbitt, S., L. Williams, L. McNease, T. Joanen. 1978. Brown Pelican Restocking Efforts in Louisiana. The Wilson Bulletin, 90/3: 443-445.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNA - Not Applicable

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N4B,N4N : N4B: Apparently Secure - Breeding, N4N: Apparently Secure - Nonbreeding

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure

Reasons: Large range, extending from North America to South America; most U.S. populations have been stable or increasing in recent years; population status in much of Central and South America is not well known, but the species may be moderately to highly threatened throughout much of the range, mainly as a result of environmental pollution and disturbance by humans; subject to unexplained population fluctuations even where doing well overall.

Other Considerations: Listed Endangered by USFWS in entire range except for Atlantic coast of U.S., Florida and Alabama, where it was de-listed 2/4/85.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

On a global scale, brown pelicans are doing just fine. The IUCN lists their status as being that of Least Concern, which means the world is in no danger of losing brown pelicans anytime soon. It is the particular populations that live in the Gulf of Mexico whose habitat has been affected as a result of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon deep sea oil rig and the resulting oil spill (Allen-Mills, 2010).

This isn't the first time brown pelicans are getting worldwide sympathy. In the 19th century pelicans were hunted for their plumage, and few habitats were safe from hunters. In 1903 U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt formed the country's first wildlife refuge for birds. It was only a five-acre patch of land on Pelican Island in Florida, but it was the first step toward what is now the National Wildlife Refuge System, which today covers more than 95 million acres total (Benzel, 2010).

While protected areas can keep hunters out, they cannot block the entry of pesticides and other environmental contaminants. The widespread use of DDT was especially harmful the vulnerable shells of brown pelican eggs and highly detrimental to the brown pelican populations in North America. It was only after the U.S. banned the use of DDT in 1972 that their numbers began to pick up (Ehrlich, 1988).

It may only be a certain subspecies of the brown pelican that has been affected, but the situation still concerns scientists. Ornithologists say they are not sure whether Louisiana's brown pelicans will survive this latest environmental disaster (Drash, 2010).

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

Supplier: smadwar

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Population

Population
(Wetlands International 2006)

Population Trend
Increasing
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Global Short Term Trend: Increase of 10-25% to decline of 30%

Comments: Within the U.S., the eastern population (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina) appears to be stable and even increasing. Recent increase in North Carolina is attributed to expansion of South Carolina population, aided by creation of dredge spoil islands that provide additional nesting habitat. Gulf Coast populations are increasing steadily, but those in the U.S. Caribbean have declined over the last 10 years (J. Collazo, pers. obs.). Contaminant levels for both populations, however, are below the threshold found to induce reproductive failure [e.g., 4-5 parts per million (ppm) for DDE]. Colonies on the San Lorenzo Islands in the Gulf of California contained about 32,000 birds in 1970 but had decreased to approximately 8,200 in 1977. However, southern populations of subspecies CALIFORNICUS, occurring in Mexico, evidently are stable (D. W. Anderson, pers. comm.). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1990) categorized the status of CALIFORNICUS as "stable." Data are needed on Central and South American populations where organochlorine pesticide use is still allowed. Aside from large, reproductively viable populations in Panama and Mexico, population status in Central and South America is poorly known (Crivelli and Anderson 1984, Risebrough and Schreiber 1972, Halewyn and Norton 1984, Guzman and Schreiber 1987).

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Threats

Degree of Threat: Medium

Comments: This species was nearly extirpated from North America between the late 1950s and early 1970s when pesticides entering the marine food web caused major population declines. The pesticide endrin killed pelicans directly, whereas DDT reduced reproductive success by causing pelicans to lay thin-shelled eggs that broke during incubation.

Populations are extremely vulnerable to chemical/pesticide pollution, which can result in eggshell thinning (reproductive failure) (Anderson and Hickey 1970, Blus et al. 1974), and presumably lethal poisoning. Populations (especially in California, Texas, and Louisiana) were decimated in the U.S. by pesticides (DDT and related compounds) in the 1950s and 60s. In the U.S. Caribbean, 7% of the pelican population in 1982 died as a result of fish die-offs in connection to chemical runoffs (e.g., organophosphates). Other threats include disturbance of nesting birds by humans (reduces reproductive success), declining fish (food) populations, increased turbidity (e.g., from dredging, resulting in reduced visibility of prey); oil and other chemical spills, entanglement in fishing gear, shooting, extreme weather conditions (freezing of soft parts, destruction of nest sites by hurricanes, storms), disease, and parasitism.

Human disturbance (e.g., recreational boating, poaching) not only disrupts reproductive success (Anderson and Keith 1980; Schreiber 1979), but may affect distribution patterns and age structure of pelicans using roosting sites during the nonbreeding season (Jaques and Anderson 1987). Habitat degradation affects both roosting and nesting patterns. On the Gulf Coast, nesting efforts have failed because nesting sites are susceptible to flooding as a result of continued site erosion (McNease et al. 1992).

Subspecies CALIFORNICUS: Declined greatly due to effects of pesticide contamination in the 1950s and 1960s. In Southern California threatened by pollution (primarily pesticides in food fishes, also oil), human disturbance of breeding colonies, loss or serious decline of food fishes due to human over-fishing (e.g., of anchovies); loss of post-breeding roost sites, fishing gear entanglement, and bacterial infection resulting from overcrowding at fish disposal areas in harbors (California Department of Fish and Game 1990). Human disturbance has decreased nesting success on Islas los Coronados, Mexico (Anderson 1988) and virtually extirpated the breeding colony (California Department of Fish and Game 1990). Southern populations in Mexico have faced problems associated with human disturbance and overexploitation of prey (e.g., sardines), yet they remain stable (D. W. Anderson, pers. comm.).

U.S. Caribbean: contaminant levels and availability of nesting habitat are not limiting or affecting the population at present. See Williams et al. (1992) for an account of die-offs that have been observed in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands; apparent causes include pesticides, botulism, and unknown factors. In the tropics and subtropics, coastal development and incidental take (e.g., artisanal fishing) is a problem and represents a major threat to the continued availability of mangrove habitat. Close to 91% of all roosting and nesting habitat utilized in the U.S. Caribbean are fringe and overwash mangroves. Fringe mangroves are particularly important to the feeding ecology of pelicans because they provide nutrient inputs and cover for the associated marine community, including food fishes. Both mangrove types are very sensitive to human-created stress such as deforestation, filling and extractions in the salt flats, sedimentation, and oil spills (Cintron and Schaeffer-Novelli 1983). Siltation caused by erosion could be adversely impacting coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove forests (Cintron and Schaeffer-Novelli 1983, Velazco et al. 1985).

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Management

Restoration Potential: Generally have responded well to restoration efforts. Recovery plans for the U.S. populations have been implemented and selected problematic organochlorines (e.g., DDT) have been banned/regulated. These actions enabled population recovery and led to federal delisting of populations along the Atlantic coast and in Florida and Alabama. Populations along the U.S. west coast have rebounded strongly and have been recommended for downgrading (from endangered to threatened) (D.W. Anderson, pers. comm.). Gulf coast populations are exhibiting increasing trends and successful reintroduction efforts continue (McNease et al. 1992). However, restoration actions implemented so far have not resulted in the recovery of populations in the U.S. Caribbean, where foraging habitat quality may be a problem. In many instances, habitat can be enhanced or created (e.g., spoil islands, jetties). These habitats provide important habitat for both roosting and nesting populations (Jaques and Anderson 1987, Parnell and Shields 1990).

Preserve Selection and Design Considerations: Elements for preserve selection and design include vegetation characteristics, size of island, distance to mainland, distance to nearest human disturbance, availability of sand bars, use patterns in the vicinity of the site in question, and historical use of the site (Collazo and Klaas 1986, Hingtgen and Mulholland 1983, Schreiber 1979, Schreiber and Schreiber 1982). Schreiber and Schreiber (1982) stressed the need to protect not only nesting sites but also loafing and roosting sites because these sites could eventually become nesting sites. They also suggested that sand bars are important to juveniles lacking sufficient skills to land on trees. Traditional sites deserve special protection because they tend to be re-used for many years.

In the tropics and subtropics, mangroves constitute an important nesting and roosting substrate. In the U.S. Caribbean, structural suitability of mangrove sites can be assessed by using a linear classification rule (discriminant function analysis) based on structural variables of roosting and nesting sites (Collazo and Klaas 1985).

Human disturbance is a critical factor in the suitability of roosting and nesting habitat (Schreiber 1979, Schreiber and Schreiber 1982). Precise figures of undesirable levels of human disturbance are difficult to assess a priori. Available information suggests that human disturbance should not be allowed within 100 to 600 meters of roosting or nesting site (Jaques and Anderson 1987, Anderson 1988, Collazo and Klaas 1986, Schreiber 1979). Variability in threshold distances is attributed to the levels of disturbance to which pelicans previously have been exposed. In some cases (e.g., U.S. Caribbean, California), high levels of human disturbance is tolerated because there is vertical separation between birds (e.g., roosting/nesting on a cliff) and the source of disturbance. In those cases, efforts should be made to avoid providing access to humans (e.g., recreational) (Jaques and Anderson 1987).

Management Requirements: The recovery plans for each population (i.e., California, Eastern, Caribbean) outline recovery and conservation actions required to delist the species. See also California Department of Fish and Game (1990) for information on management actions and needs for the Southern California Bight population.

Environmental contaminants are not considered limiting factors for any population at present. Recovery and management efforts for those populations still designated as endangered are more focused on habitat degradation, human disturbance, and maintaining consistent monitoring efforts (e.g., numbers, productivity). Human disturbance (e.g., recreational boating, poaching) disrupts pelican reproductive output. Disturbance is not only detrimental to nesting efforts, but it may affect distribution patterns and age structure of pelicans using roosting sites during the nonreproductive season (Jaques and Anderson 1987).

Management Research Needs: Management/research needs are outlined in the recovery plans. Needs for California and Gulf populations are focused on monitoring efforts. For the California population, there is a need to revise the operational definition for a recovered population such that it is based on cumulative information (D.W. Anderson, pers. comm.).

In the U.S. Caribbean, recovery efforts should be directed to monitoring breeding productivity and evaluating foraging habitat quality. It is necessary to partition the potential effects of foraging habitat degradation from oceanic influences. The following specific research needs have been identified as a result of the ongoing status review of the species sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

1) Productivity: There is a need to obtain accurate estimates of breeding productivity (i.e., chicks per breeding pair). These estimates, as in the early 1980s, should be obtained from as many colonies as possible.

2) Food availability: This is perhaps the underlying factor affecting pelicans in the U.S. Caribbean at present. While difficult to tackle, there is a need to gain insights on the quality and quantity of resources by focusing on the following: a) monitor prey levels at selected sites--there are baseline data from these sites for comparative purposes; b) monitor prey species composition and size frequency brought to young by adults at selected colonies--this would be considered an index of present conditions vs. early 1980s (there are baseline data on these metrics); ancillary data could consist of monitoring where pelicans are going to get their prey and develop an index to evaluate prey availability at feeding sites; c) monitor "bait" fish landings in Puerto Rico--this is a broad category including anchovies and sardines; both groups, however, are consumed by pelicans; data should be useful to test for trends (after applying correction factors) and as an index of general food availability; data could be broken down by point of origin (e.g., fishermen village).

3) Habitat degradation: Research available literature on causes and effects of siltation on tropical coastal ecosystems, and identify any ongoing work documenting and/or monitoring such effects.

4) Movements: There is a possibility that dispersal patterns of U.S. Virgin Islands birds may have changed. In the 1980s, 47% of the juveniles banded in the U.S. Virgin Islands were recorded in Puerto Rico. A decrease in the proportion of birds moving to Puerto Rico coupled with lower productivity in the U.S. Virgin Islands could help explain the low numbers recorded during recent surveys (i.e., 1993-95).

Biological Research Needs: Continued research needed range wide on the effects of poisons and pesticides, disease, and parasitism in the population. Life history study of this long-lived species is needed to determine better habitat requirements, limiting factors, and natural mortality.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Global Protection: Many to very many (13 to >40) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

Comments: Many occurrences are protected in wildlife refuges, national parks, National Audubon Society sanctuaries, and state-owned lands within the U.S. Unknown outside U.S.

Needs: Stop forever all forms of pollution and degradation of the marine environment. Protect/preserve breeding colonies and roosting/loafing areas; humans must remain 100 - 600 > 100 meters away; will require education and maybe surveillance. Ensure the availability of undisturbed, non-occupied potential breeding/roosting/loafing sites; pelicans move for known and unknown reasons, and habitat must be available to accommodate all aspects of their needs. Educate fishermen to remove hooks, lines, etc. from birds (and the environment), and stress that pelicans do not pose a threat to their livelihood.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Brown pelicans often specialize on schools of small fish. Although these fish are not directly beneficial to fisherman, they make up the diet of commercially important fish.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Humans benefit from pelicans by hunting, egging, and trapping. Their meat and eggs are used for food and their feathers have commercial value. A charismatic species, they are also valuable for research and educational purposes.

Positive Impacts: food ; body parts are source of valuable material; research and education

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Species of Special Concern, Criterion #1 (SSC 1)The brown pelican is listed as a species of special concern based on its vulnerability to habitat modification and human disturbances (e.g. Schreiber & Mock 1988; Klein et al. 1995). These factors may threaten the species in the absence of effective management and conservation strategies (FWCC 2009). Threats & Conservation: Once thriving throughout its range, populations of the brown pelican began to decline in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as the result of plume hunting and slaughter by fishermen who viewed the birds as competition for valuable catch (USFWS 1995). In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt designated Pelican Island on the Indian River Lagoon as the first national wildlife refuge, reducing the threat of plume hunters in the area. Further protection was established by the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and enhanced when studies revealed that brown pelicans were not detrimental to commercial fish stocks. Unfortunately, pelican populations began to decline again in the mid 20th century from poor reproductive success linked to the widespread use of toxic pesticides like DDT and dieldrin. Studies found that these chemicals were transported by water (irrigation and/or rain) from treated agricultural areas into pelican feeding grounds located in nearby estuaries and coastal waters (Terres 1980; USFWS 1995). Pesticides ingested from contaminated prey items resulted in disruption of calcium metabolism in pelicans, leading to eggshell thinning and subsequent loss of young from egg damage. In 1970, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the brown pelican as an endangered species, which was followed shortly by the banning of DDT and the restriction of similar pesticides by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1972. By 1985, improved breeding success led to population growth that allowed the brown pelican to be removed from the Endangered Species List in Alabama, Florida and along the entire Atlantic coast (USRWS 1995). In November 2009, the bird was delisted as an endangered species across the remainder of its distribution (Federal Register 2009).Recovery efforts are ongoing to increase pelican populations across their natural range. These programs include continued banding and census of existing birds in order to plot migration patterns and gather data on lifespan and growth rates, as well as the patrolling of rookeries and sanctuaries to minimize human disturbance to nesting sites in these designated areas.
  • Carl, RA. 1987. Age-class variation in foraging techniques by brown pelicans. The Condor 89: 525-533.
  • FNAI. 2001. Field Guide to the Rare Animals of Florida. Florida Natural Areas Inventory. Online at http://www.fnai.org/fieldguides.cfm (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • FWCC. 2003. Florida's Breeding Bird Atlas: A Collaborative Study of Florida's Birdlife. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Online at http://www.myfwc.com/bba/ (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • FWCC. 2009. Florida's endangered species, threatened species, and species of special concern. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Online at http://myfwc.com/WILDLIFEHABITATS/imperiledSpp_index.htm (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • Farrand Jr., J (Ed.). 1983. The Audubon Society Master Guide to Birding Volume 1: Loons to Sandpipers. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. USA. 447 pp.
  • Federal Register. 2009. Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Removal of the Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife; Final Rule. Department of the Interior. Fish and Wildlife Service. Federal Register Vol.17, No. 20. Online at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=2009_register&docid=fr17no09-14 (Date accessed 08/07/2010).
  • Grimes, J, Suto, B, Greve. JH & HF Albers. 1989. Effect of selected anthelmintics on three common helminthes in the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis). J. Wildlife Diseases 25: 139-142.
  • Harrison, P. 1996. Seabirds of the World: A Photographic Guide. Princeton Univ. Press. Princeton, NJ. USA. 317 pp.
  • Kale II, HW & DS Maehr. 1990. Florida's Birds. Pineapple Press. Sarasota, FL. USA. 288 pp.
  • Klein, ML, Humphrey, SR & HF Percival. 1995. Effects of ecotourism on distribution of waterbirds in a wildlife refuge. Conserv. Biol. 9: 1454-1465.
  • Kushlan, JA & PC Frohring. 1985. Decreases in the brown pelican population in southern Florida. Colonial Waterbirds 8: 83-95.
  • Mattiucci, S, Paoletti, M, Olivero-Verbel, J, Baldiris, R, Arroyo-Salgado, B, Garbin, L, Navone, G & G Nascetti. 2008. Contracaecum bioccai n. sp. from the brown pelican Pelecanus occidentalis (L.) in Columbia (Nematoda: Anisakidae): morphology, molecular evidence and its genetic relationship with congeners from fish-eating birds. Syst. Parasitol. 69: 101-121.
  • Peterson, RT. 1980. A Field Guide to the Birds: A Completely New Guide to All the Birds of Eastern and Central North America. Houghton Mifflin. Boston, MA. USA. 384 pp.S
  • Schreiber, RW & EA Schreiber. 1983. Use of age-classes in monitoring population stability of brown pelicans. J. Wildl. Manage. 47: 105-111.
  • Schreiber, RW & PJ Mock. 1988. Eastern brown pelicans: What does 60 years of banding tell us? J. Field Ornithol. 59: 171-182.
  • Terres, JK. 1980. The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. USA. 1109 pp.
  • USFWS. Brown Pelican: Endangered Species Success Story. Biologue Series. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Zamparo, D, Overstreet, RM & DR Brooks. 2005. A new species of Petasiger (Digenea: Echonostomiformes: Echinostomatidae) in the brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, (Aves: Pelecaniformes: Pelecanidae), from the Area de Conservación Guanacaste, Costa Rica. J. Parasitol. 91: 1465-1467.
  • chreiber, RW. 1980. Nesting chronology of the eastern brown pelican. The Auk 97: 491-508.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce

Source: Indian River Lagoon Species Inventory

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Risks

Stewardship Overview: Management concerns in the United States historically focused on environmental contaminants. Environmental contaminants, particularly DDT and its metabolites, were the most important factors threatening the continued existence of brown pelicans in the 1960s and 1970s. Since the banning of DDT in 1972 and regulation of the use and disposal of other organochlorines, pelicans have rebounded to historical levels or are increasing. In the past, potential conflicts with commercial fishing were an important factor affecting recovery potential (e.g., California populations). At present, however, exploitation of selected fisheries (e.g., anchovies) is not economically viable (D.W. Anderson, pers. comm.). Threats to essential habitats, human disturbance, and the need for continued population monitoring are molding current recovery and management efforts.

Species Impact: As many other colonial birds, pelicans can cause vegetation defoliation or death as excrement builds up over time, assuming the site does not have "flushing or cleansing" attributes (e.g., mangrove islet). Despite the apparent damage of these sites, though, they should be afforded protection because pelicans tend to re-use traditional or old sites (Schreiber and Schreiber 1982).

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Wikipedia

Brown pelican

in flight, Galapagos islands

The brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) is a small pelican found in the Americas. It is one of the best known and most prominent birds found in the coastal areas of the southern and western United States. It is one of only three pelican species found in the Western Hemisphere. The brown pelican is one of the only two pelican species which feeds by diving into the water.

Description[edit]

The brown pelican is the smallest of the eight species of pelican, although it is a large bird in nearly every other regard. It is 106–137 cm (42–54 in) in length, weighs from 2.75 to 5.5 kg (6.1 to 12.1 lb) and has a wingspan from 1.83 to 2.5 m (6.0 to 8.2 ft). Through most of its range, the brown pelican is an unmistakable bird. Like all pelicans, this species has a very large bill, 28 to 34.8 cm (11.0 to 13.7 in) long in this case, with a gular pouch on the bottom for draining water when it scoops out prey.[2] The head is white but often gets a yellowish wash in adult birds. The bill is grayish overall in most birds, though breeding birds become reddish on the underside of the throat. The back, rump, and tail are streaked with gray and dark brown, sometimes with a rusty hue. In adult pelicans, the breast and belly are a blackish-brown and the legs and feet are black. The juvenile is similar but has a brownish-gray neck and white underparts.

This bird is readily distinguished from the American white pelican by its non-white plumage, smaller size and its habit of diving for fish from the air, as opposed to co-operative fishing from the surface. The Peruvian pelican, previously considered a subspecies of brown pelican, is now considered to be a separate species. It has very similar plumage to the brown, but it is noticeably larger. The brown and Peruvian pelicans may overlap in some areas along the Pacific coast of South America.

Range and habitats[edit]

The brown pelican lives on both coasts in the Americas. On the Atlantic Coast and Gulf Coast they distribute from Nova Scotia to Venezuela, and to the mouth of the Amazon River. Along the Atlantic, they are usually less common north of the Carolinas, with a considerable population in much of the Gulf of Mexico. On the Pacific Ocean they are found from British Columbia to south central Chile, and including the Galapagos Islands.[3] In the Pacific, they are fairly common along the coast of California, Mexico and Central America. Some immature birds may stray to inland freshwater lakes. After nesting, North American birds move in flocks further north along the coasts, returning to warmer waters for winter. They are also common in Mangrove swamps.

Behavior[edit]

Pelicans are very gregarious birds; they live in flocks of both sexes throughout the year. They are exceptionally buoyant due to the internal air sacks beneath their skin and in their bones, and as graceful in the air as they are clumsy on land. In level flight, pelicans fly in groups, with their heads held back on their shoulders, the bills resting on their folded necks. They may fly in a "V", but usually in regular lines or single file, often low over the water's surface.

When foraging, they dive bill-first like a kingfisher[4] often submerging completely below the surface momentarily as they snap up prey. Upon surfacing they spill the water from the throat pouch before swallowing their catch. Only the Peruvian pelican shares this active foraging style, while other pelicans forage more inactively by scooping up corralled fish while swimming on the surface of the water. Juvenile brown pelicans have been observed foraging in the surface-swimming matter of other pelicans. They are occasional targets of kleptoparasitism by other fish-eating birds such as gulls, skuas and frigatebirds.[5]

Showing throat pouch

Although the brown pelican eats mostly fish, an occasional amphibian or crustacean may supplement the diet. Menhaden may locally account for 90–95% of their food. The anchovy supply is particularly important to the nesting success of the brown pelican.[6] However, their preferred prey are usually not commercially fished species.[5] Other fish preyed on with some regularity can include pigfish, pinfish, herring, sheepshead, silversides, mullet, and minnows, and they sometimes eat crustaceans, usually prawns. A single adult pelican can eat up to 1.8 kg (4.0 lb) each day.[7] Today, in many coastal areas, brown pelicans will loaf around fishing ports and piers in hopes of being fed or stealing scraps of fish, especially if conditioned to do.[5]

Breeding[edit]

These birds nest in colonies, often on islands and/or in mangroves. Male pelicans pick out the nesting sites and perform an "advertising" display which attracts the females. Once a pair forms a bond, overt communication between them is minimal. Pelican nesting peaks during March and April; nests are in colonies either in trees, bushes, or on the ground (the latter usually on islands that terrestrial predators cannot access). Those placed in trees are rather flimsy and made of reeds, grasses, straw, and sticks; if on the ground, nests consist of a shallow scrape lined with feathers and a rim of soil built 10–26 cm (3.9–10.2 in) above the ground. Their young are hatched in broods of about 2–3 and are naked and helpless upon hatching. Incubation is roughly 28–30 days. Both parents actively care for the young. Young pelicans start to walk independently at about 35 days old in ground nest, but do not leave treetop nests for up to 68–88 days. In the 8–10 month period they are cared for, the nestling pelicans are fed by regurgitation around 70 kg (150 lb) of fish. The younger birds reach sexual maturity (and full adult plumage) at anywhere from two to five years of age. Predation is occasional at colonies and predators of eggs, young and the rare adult pelicans can include gulls, raptors (especially bald eagles), foxes, skunks and feral cats.[8] In areas where their ranges' overlap, American alligators may sometimes pick off fledging pelicans. Predation is likely reduced if the colony is on an island. Like all pelicans, brown pelicans are highly sensitive to disturbances by humans (often tourists or fishermen) at their nest and may abandon their nest if stressed as such.[5] Due to their size, the non-nesting adults are rarely predated.[9]

State bird[edit]

The brown pelican is the state bird of Louisiana.

Threats and conservation[edit]

In flight
Juvenile
Diving into the sea to catch fish in Jamaica

Pesticides like DDT and dieldrin threatened the brown pelican's future in the southeast United States and California in the early 1970s. Pesticides also threatened the pelican population in Florida in this period. A research group from the University of Tampa headed by Dr. Ralph Schreiber conducted research in the Tampa Bay/St Petersburg area and found that DDT caused the pelican eggshells to be too thin and incapable of supporting the embryo to maturity. As a result of this research, DDT usage was eliminated in Florida, followed by the rest of the US. Along with the American white pelican, the brown pelican is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List has listed the brown pelican as Least Concern since 1988.[1] The US government imposed a ban on the use of DDT in 1972. Since then, the population of brown pelican has increased. Current estimates place the population at 650,000 individuals.[10]

Depictions in culture[edit]

The brown pelican is now a staple of crowded coastal regions and is tolerated to varying degrees by fishermen and boatmen. It is the national bird of Barbados and the Turks and Caicos Islands, and state bird of Louisiana. It is also one of the mascots of Tulane University and is on the seals of Tulane University, Louisiana State University and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. It is also on the Crest of the University of the West Indies. A brown pelican (voiced by Geoffrey Rush in an Australian accent) was illustrated as a friendly, virtuous talking character named Nigel in the animated children's film Finding Nemo, set in the Pacific Ocean near Australia, although only the white Australian pelican is known to occur in that country.

In 1902, the pelican was made a part of the official Louisiana seal and, 10 years later, in 1912, the pelican and her young adorned the Flag of Louisiana as well. One of Louisiana's nicknames is "The Pelican State." In 1958, the pelican was made the official state bird of Louisiana. This act was amended on July 26, 1966 to specifically designate the brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis.

The National Basketball Association's New Orleans Pelicans are named in honor of Louisiana's state bird.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "Pelecanus occidentalis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ del Hoyo, J; Elliot, A; Sargatal, J (1996). Handbook of the Birds of the World 3. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. ISBN 84-87334-20-2. 
  3. ^ Brown Pelican – Pelecanus occidentalis (Report). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2009-11. http://www.fws.gov/contaminants/pdf/brown_pelicanfactsheet09.pdf. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  4. ^ Dan A. Tallman, David L. Swanson, Jeffrey S. Palmer (2002). Birds of South Dakota (Hardcover ed.). Aberdeen, South dakota: Midstates/Quality Quick Print. p. 11. ISBN 0-929918-06-1. 
  5. ^ a b c d Brown Pelican. Smithsonian's Nationall Zoological Park
  6. ^ Anderson, Mais & Kelly (1980) "Brown Pelicans as anchovy stock indicators and their relationships to commercial fishing" CalCOFI Reports XXI p. 55 "Pelican [i.e. the brown pelican] reproductive rate (fledging success = F‘) depends largely on levels of anchovy abundance and availability. The diet of breeding pelicans from 1972 to 1979 was 92% anchovies (N = 2195; Gress et al. in preparation). At Anacapa Island, breeding pelicans feed mostly in the Santa Barbara Channel later in the breeding season, but their feeding areas are variable due to mobility of their prey, anchovies (Gress et al. in preparation). Less is known of pelicans nesting at Coronado Norte, but a similar situation involving feeding areas is likely."
  7. ^ ADW: Pelecanus occidentalis: INFORMATION. Animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu. Retrieved on 2014-04-01.
  8. ^ Brown Pelican. The Animal Files. Retrieved on 2014-04-01.
  9. ^ Brown Pelican. Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce (2010-09-28).
  10. ^ Cappiello, Dina (November 12, 2009). "Brown pelicans off endangered species list". Associated Press. 
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Source: Wikipedia

Unreviewed

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Formerly included P. thagus Molina, 1782 [Peruvian Pelican], now considered distinct (e.g. Sibley and Monroe 1990, Ridgely and Greenfield 2001) on the basis of much larger size, differences in color of plumage and soft parts (Wetmore 1945), and absence of interbreeding (Banks et al., 2008).

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Disclaimer

EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.

To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!