The brown pelican's image adorns postage stamps across the Americas, from Bermuda and Belize to Venezuela and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It is Louisiana's state bird and the national bird for Turks and Caicos Islands. With its dark plumage and distinct feeding methods, the brown pelican sets itself apart from seven other pelican species. Aside from being one of the smaller pelican species, the brown pelican is the only one that is known to dive and dine. Most pelican species feed by corralling fish into shallow waters through a group chase before scooping them up with their large beaks. Brown pelicans have their own distinct method: once they spot light reflecting off the scales of fish, they plunge into the water from heights of up to 70 feet where they scoop up fish, drain water through their beaks and tip their heads back to swallow (MarineBio.org: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, 2010 ). Air sacs beneath their skin protect them from injury when they hit the water.
This species inhabits shallow inshore waters, estuaries and bays, avoiding the open sea. Its diet is comprised mostly of fish, causing great congregations in areas with abundant prey. Prey species include sardines and anchovies, but has been seem to take shrimps and carrion, and even nestling egrets. It regularly feeds by plunge-diving and is often the victim of kleptoparasites. The timing of breeding varies depending on latitude, breeding in spring in the extreme north of its range compared to all year round in the tropics. Brown Pelicans are colonial, with some colonies being maintained over several years. It mostly nests on the ground, sometimes on cliffs and less often in small trees or bushes. Movements and migrations depend on local conditions (e.g. northern populations migrate south) (del Hoyo et al. 1992).
In Ventura Harbor, near many boats and people.
Lat: 34.28, Long: -119.29
Spotted on Jul 17, 2012
Submitted on Aug 13, 2012