Brown Pelican, the national Bird
The Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), also known as the Western Brown Pelican, is a seabird found along shorelines in the warmer parts of North America, Central America, the Caribbean and South America. Its plumage is mostly brownish gray with small white areas on the underwing and face. It breeds on islands and coasts from Texas to Argentina, but only rarely on northern islands of the Gulf of Mexico (such as Galveston Island), possibly because of competition with laughing gulls.
The brown pelican is Louisiana’s state bird. It was chosen because of its long history with Louisiana, once being found on every shoreline and in every bayou. Pelicans were pursued for their plumage so vigorously that they were believed to be extinct. In 1967, a small colony of brown pelicans was discovered near Grand Terre Island off the coast of Louisiana and they were listed as an endangered species in 1970.
They are also the national bird of many Caribbean nations include Saint Martin, Barbados, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and the Turks and Caicos Islands .
Facts about the brown pelican
They are large seabirds with a long and wide bill and pointed wings. With up to about 66 cm (26 in) of total length, it’s one of the two largest species of pelicans in the world. It has a global distribution and breeds from South America north to North America and most Eurasian countries.
Brown Pelicans are excellent swimmers and marvelous fliers. They are tracked down on the planet’s all’s seas and can fly up to 200 miles each day. Pelicans are enormous birds with a wingspan that is around six feet wide when they fly. It has long legs for swimming in water searching for fish and other food. Pelicans have webbed feet, which are ideal for getting fish yet additionally assist with making them incredible at swimming.
They dive from as high as 60 feet above the water, diving recklessly into the water and emerging with fish in their bills. Prior to gulping their prey they channel the water from their pockets, while Gulls or Terns frequently attempt to take fish right out of their beaks.
Breeding Ground in Florida
The brown pelican is a bird that breeds in many areas of Florida. There favourite place for nesting are remote islands, coastal mangroves and salt marshes. The brown pelicans forage for food on the open ocean.
A female pelican lays up to three eggs in a nest which she builds in a tree or on a cliff’s edge. The male pelicans will build the nest before the eggs are laid and do most of the incubation. The eggs are incubated for about two weeks and when they hatch both parents feed them for about six weeks until they are able to fly.
After precipitous declines, Brown Pelican populations stabilized thanks to conservation efforts, and populations have slowly increased. Populations reached an all-time low in the early 1970s, when fewer than 500 breeding pairs of pelicans were counted in Louisiana. The Brown Pelican is now one of the most abundant seabirds along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic seaboard, numbering about 66,000 to 100,000 birds annually.
About Author: Pushpendra Matharu is a Wildlife Photographer based in Toronto, Canada.