Brown Pelican Facts

by | Oct 25, 2022 | Wild Birds of Florida

The brown pelican is one of the most fascinating birds to watch hunt in the lagoon system. They soar through the air, scanning the surface for mainly fish. Once they have locked on, they will dive into the water headfirst up to three feet below the surface.

I Have a Question: Emma asked, “from what height are brown pelicans able to dive?”

Cameron’s Answer: The brown pelican can dive from as high as 30 feet above the water, and they are the only bird capable of diving from this height.

You May be Surprised to Learn How Brown Pelicans Actually Catch Fish

Their main goal is to smack the fish with their padded chest to stun them; once stunned, they gulp them down. Pelicans are considered opportunistic hunters; therefore, you should watch for them when searching for dolphins.

Brown Pelican in Banana River

A Brown Pelican in the Banana River

Brown Pelicans Often Follow Dolphins

Typically, the pelican will group around dolphins because where dolphins are, fish are. You will notice the pelican chasing the dolphin around, hoping to pick off some of the distracted fish.

    Brown Pelican at Sunrise

    Brown Pelican at Sunrise

    This Species Can Be Found from New Jersey to South America and Many States in Between

    The brown pelican belongs to the family Pelecanidae and is found on the Atlantic coast from New Jersey to the Amazon River and along the Pacific coast from British Columbia to Chile.

    Their Range in the United States Includes

    Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas, Virgin Islands, and Washington are part of the species’ historical range.

      Brown Pelican Hunting for Fish

      Brown Pelican Hunting for Fish

      Brown Pelican in Flight Over Ocean

      Brown Pelican in Flight Over Ocean

      Brown Pelican in Flight

      Brown Pelican in Flight

      More Information About the Brown Pelican 

      The adult brown pelican is a large, gray-brown water bird with white on its head and throat. Immatures have white underparts, gray-brown upper parts, and a brown neck. Despite similarities to the eastern subspecies, the Caribbean brown pelican subspecies are distinguished by having darker non-breeding plumage above the surface.

      When breeding, the Caribbean pelican frequently has a darker underbelly to its plumage than the eastern brown pelican. Each member of either subspecies may weigh up to 8 pounds and have a wingspan that reaches approximately 7 feet.

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