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Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican
Bird. The brown pelican is the smallest of all pelicans. To capture fish, the pelican performs a spectacular dive from 20 to 30 feet above water and scoops the fish into her bill's pouch. The pouch can hold three gallons but the bird's stomach can only hold one gallon. The pelican drains off the water and then, rather than carrying the fish, she swallows them whole before taking off. For protection from diving injuries, brown pelicans have air sacs under the front of their bodies that cushion against the force of hitting the surface of the water. Their eyes have a clear membrane to protect them under water and during flight.
Scientific Name Lifespan
Pelecanus occidentalis 10 years, 25 in captivity
Carnivore. Primarily fish (favorite is Atlantic menhaden, a fish with very oily flesh). Requires 4 pounds of fish per day.
Predators and Threats
Raccoons (on nestlings), bald eagles, peregrine falcons and humans.
Small coastal islands, shallow estuaries, sand spits and offshore sand bars; Anacapa Island, California south to Chile and from Maryland to Venezuela and Trinidad; British Columbia and Nova Scotia.