Brown pelican

Brown pelican
Brown Pelican21K.jpg
Scientific classification edit
P. occidentalis
Binomial name
Pelecanus occidentalis
Linnaeus, 1766
Distribution Map Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis).png
Distribution of brown pelican
red: year-round nonbreeding
orange: year-round breeding

The brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) is a North American bird of the pelican family, Pelecanidae. It is one of three pelican species found in the Americas and one of two that feed by diving in water. It is found on the Atlantic Coast from Nova Scotia to the mouth of the Amazon River, and along the Pacific Coast from British Columbia to northern Chile, including the Galapagos Islands. The nominate subspecies in its breeding plumage has a white head with a yellowish wash on the crown. The nape and neck are dark maroon–brown. The upper sides of the neck have white lines along the base of the gular pouch, and the lower fore neck has a pale yellowish patch. The male and female are similar, but the female is slightly smaller. The nonbreeding adult has a white head and neck. The pink skin around the eyes becomes dull and gray in the nonbreeding season. It lacks any red hue, and the pouch is strongly olivaceous ochre-tinged and the legs are olivaceous gray to blackish-gray.

The brown pelican mainly feeds on fish, but occasionally eats amphibians, crustaceans, and the eggs and nestlings of birds. It nests in colonies in secluded areas, often on islands, vegetated land among sand dunes, thickets of shrubs and trees, and mangroves. Females lay two or three oval, chalky white eggs. Incubation takes 28 to 30 days with both sexes sharing duties. The newly hatched chicks are pink, turning gray or black within 4 to 14 days. About 63 days are needed for chicks to fledge. Six to 9 weeks after hatching, the juveniles leave the nest, and gather into small groups known as pods.

The brown pelican is the national bird of Saint Martin, Barbados, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and the Turks and Caicos Islands, and the official state bird of Louisiana. It has been rated as a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It was listed under the United States Endangered Species Act from 1970 to 2009, as pesticides such as dieldrin and DDT threatened its future in the Southeastern United States and California. In 1972, the use of DDT was banned in Florida, followed by the rest of the United States. Since then, the brown pelican's population has increased. In 1903, Theodore Roosevelt set aside the first National Wildlife Refuge, Florida's Pelican Island, to protect the species from hunters.


The brown pelican was described by Swedish zoologist Carl Linnaeus in the 1766 12th edition of his Systema Naturae, where it was given the binomial name of Pelecanus occidentalis.[2] It belongs to the New World clade of the genus Pelecanus.[3]

Five subspecies of the brown pelican are recognized:[4][5]

  • P. o. californicus (Ridgway, 1884) – This subspecies breeds on the Pacific coast of California and Baja California, and south to Jalisco. Its non-breeding range extends north along the Pacific coast to British Columbia, and south to Guatemala. It is rarely found in El Salvador.
  • P. o. carolinensis (Gmelin, 1789) – This subspecies breeds in the eastern United States from Maryland south along the Atlantic, Gulf, and Caribbean coasts and south to Honduras and its Pacific coasts, Costa Rica, and Panama. Its non-breeding range is from southern New York to Venezuela.
  • P. o. occidentalis (Linnaeus, 1766) – This subspecies breeds in the Greater and Lesser Antilles, the Bahamas, and along the Caribbean coast of the West Indies, Colombia, and Venezuela, up to Trinidad and Tobago.
  • P. o. murphyi (Wetmore, 1945) – This species is found from western Colombia to Ecuador, and is a non-breeding visitor to northern Peru.
  • P. o. urinator (Wetmore, 1945) – This subspecies is found on the Galapagos Islands.

The brown pelican is part of a clade that includes the Peruvian pelican (P. thagus) and the American white pelican (P. erythrorhynchos).[5] The Peruvian pelican was previously treated as a subspecies of the brown pelican, but is now considered a separate species on the basis of its much greater size (around double the weight of the brown pelican), differences in bill color and plumage, and a lack of hybridization between the forms despite a large range overlap.[3] In contrast, hybridization between brown and white pelicans is possible.[6]

In 1931, James L. Peters separated the American white pelican and the brown pelican (including the Peruvian pelican) into monospecific subgenera. This separation was also supported by Jean Dorst and Raoul J. Mougin in 1979. The spot-billed pelican and the pink-backed pelican were considered to be sister species by Andrew Elliott in 1992 and Joseph B. Nelson in 2005, and the divergence between the brown and the Peruvian pelicans was found to be the most in the pelican family. In 1993, Paul Johnsgard hypothesized that the pelicans derived from a south Asian or African ancestor, and spread through northern Asia and Australia before finally coming to North America. This hypothesis would imply that, unless the brown pelican and the American white pelican resulted from multiple invasions of North America, they would be sister taxa. However, trees derived from genetic data disagree. In 1990, Charles Sibley and John E. Ahlquist's Unweighted Pair Group Method with Arithmetic Mean (UPGMA) tree based on DNA–DNA hybridization data found that the American white pelican, the pink-backed pelican, the great white pelican, and the Australian pelican were sister species, and the brown pelican was the most divergent of all.[3]

Other Languages
العربية: بجعة بنية
български: Кафяв пеликан
brezhoneg: Pilikant gell
català: Pelicà bru
čeština: Pelikán hnědý
Deutsch: Braunpelikan
Esperanto: Bruna pelikano
euskara: Pelikano arre
français: Pélican brun
한국어: 갈색사다새
hrvatski: Smeđi pelikan
עברית: שקנאי חום
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ဝန်ပိုညို
Na Vosa Vakaviti: Pelecanus occidentalis
Nederlands: Bruine pelikaan
norsk nynorsk: Brunpelikan
português: Pelicano-pardo
Simple English: Brown pelican
slovenčina: Pelikán hnedý
српски / srpski: Смеђи несит
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Smeđi pelikan
svenska: Brun pelikan
українська: Пелікан бурий
Tiếng Việt: Bồ nông nâu
中文: 褐鵜鶘