Eastern Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)
Category: Sea Bird Other
The scientific name of the Eastern Brown Pelican is Pelecanus occidentalis. It is a small sized pelican that is prominent in the coastal areas of Western and Southern United States. The Eastern Brown Pelican is 1 of 3 species of pelicans that are known to dive up to a meter below the water surface in pursuit of prey.
The Eastern Brown Pelican can reach a length of between 106cm to 137cm (41.7 to 53.9 inches) from head to tail. A fully grown adult can weigh between 2.5 to 5.0 kgs (5.5 to 11 lbs) and possess a wingspan between 1.83 m to 2.5 m (6 to 8.2 feet). As with other pelican species, the Eastern Brown has the characteristic large gray beak with a gular pouch for draining away seawater.
It has a white head with a yellowish tinge present in full grown adults. Breeding adults tend to exhibit a reddish plumage on the underside of the throat. The breast and belly of the bird is blackish-brown in color with black legs and black webbed feet. Juvenile Eastern Brown Pelicans have a characteristic brownish-grey neck and are pure white in the region beneath the wings, the breast and belly.
Differences Between the Eastern Brown and the American White Pelican
The main visible differences between the Easterrn Brown Pelican and the American White Pelican are:
• The obvious non-white plumage on the eastern brown pelican
• The markedly smaller size of the eastern brown
• The mode of hunting for prey which is characterized by solo diving for the eastern brown and group herding for the American white pelican
As is common with other pelican species, the Eastern Brown Pelican is a gregarious species. This means the bird lives in large flocks which are made up of members of both sexes. The incredible buoyancy exhibited by members of the pelican species can be attributed to air sacs located underneath the skin and in the bones. The short webbed black feet of these birds coupled with exceptionally large bulky wings make it extremely awkward for the birds to walk on land. However while in fright pelicans exhibit remarkable grace due to the increased wingspan compared to other bird species. Pelicans fly with the head held back on the shoulders which helps to increase stability by placing the bird's weight below the wings.
The Eastern Brown Pelican dives for fish head first and wings tucked in which makes it easy to penetrate the water surface. Its diet mainly consists of fish but is supplemented with amphibians and crustaceans specifically prawn. The fish species that make up this diet are anchovies, herring, mullet, silversides, pigfish and sheepshead.
The Eastern Brown Pelican breeding season peaks in the months of March and April. The pelican species nests in colonies located on islands or in mangrove swamps. Male eastern brown pelicans are responsible for picking out a viable nesting site prior to wooing a willing female. The brood consists of 2 to 3 eggs which hatch after a 28 to 30 day incubation period. Young Eastern Brown Pelicans stay in the nest for 68 to 88 days. Full maturity is reached at 2 to 5 years. This pelican species is placed under species of least concern in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red list.