Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Brown Pelicans, Part II

More brown pelican facts. Brown pelicans have a wing span of about 6 1/2 feet. The pouch is used to scoop up fish, but not for storing fish. The pouch capacity is about 17 pints of water. Brown pelicans nest in large colonies. Nests are usually built in low trees, but pelicans will nest on the ground if there is no vegetation. Both parents tend to the needs of the young. It takes six to nine pounds of fish each day to feed a nest of three chicks. Peak nesting period is April and May. (Photo by Matt MacQueen)

The immature brown pelican in this photo is pretty typical - overall a drab grey-brown color, with dark eyes and a white belly. It takes about three years for brown pelicans to attain adult plumage.

Just as you change "feathers" depending on whether you're cleaning the car or going out on a hot date, adult pelican plumage will change according to the activity taking place. The plumage seen on a chick-feeding adult is white head, chocolate brown neck. As you might expect, breeding plumage is flashier - this photo shows typical adult brown pelican breeding plumage of brown neck, golden crown, blue eyes, red eye skin, and a dark belly. Standard winter, non-breeding plumage includes a white neck and gold crown.

Brown pelicans love the beach – they dive for fish, float off-shore, and rest on the sand. Groups of brown pelicans will fly single file, cruising the shallows for schools of fish. And finally, no discussion of pelicans would be complete without this thought: A strange bird is the pelican – his beak can hold more than his belly can.

(Photos, except as noted, by Jim Angy. Click to enlarge. I keep forgetting to mention it - we have six digital photo albums on CDs available on our Still Nature web site, including The Nature of Pelican Island, with lots more photos and information.)


Cactus Jack Splash said...

Great information. I have never seen a brown pelican until the photos you posted yesterday

Florida Beach Basics said...

Cactus Jack - Glad you're enjoying the pelican party. Jim has some great new photos of our winter visitors, the white pelicans, so we'll talk about them next week.

Regards to your DOR - sounds like a great family reunion, even if it didn't include the equine side of the family!