Brown Pelican

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Seabirds, Pacific Northwest

The brown pelican is a large dark brown bird with whitish yellow necks and black feet and legs. They have a very large, hooked beak equipped with a huge pouch.
Brown Pelican, Copyright By Sean McCann

The brown pelican is a large dark brown bird with whitish yellow necks and black feet and legs. They have a very large, hooked beak equipped with a huge pouch. They have short legs and webbed feet, large wings that span up to 2 meters. They can soar for hours on these wings and when they see feed, they fold up their wings and dive, opening their pouches up as they hit the water, scooping up the fish.

Brown pelicans breed in California and after breeding, they may be seen as far north as the southern BC Coast. The brown pelican is strictly a marine bird and are never far from water. They prefer estuaries and bays.

Brown pelicans feed on small fish that they capture by diving, they are the only pelican species that feeds in this fashion. After capturing the fish they squeeze the water from the pouch. They point the beak up and slide the fish down their throats. The seagulls gather around them in a frenzy, eating the catch as it falls from their beaks. The Brown Pelican’s diet consists almost entirely of fish such as smelt and anchovies. Brown Pelicans also eat some crustaceans and occasionally scavenge for food during lean times.

Brown Pelicans prefer to nest on the ground, but will also nest on cliffs, or even in trees. The female builds the nest from material material that the male gathers for her. The nest is either a simple depression in the ground lined with mostly feathers or a large stick nest on the cliff or in a tree. The female lays up to 4 eggs each year. Both parents will incubate them, allowing the other to feed. The young are fed regurgitated fish by both parents. If the nest is ground built, the young may leave as early as 5 weeks but in a cliff or tree nest, they generally stay on the nest for 7 weeks.  After fledging, the little ones will gather into groups, but the parents will continue to feed them until they can feed themselves.

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