Photograph - Digital
From Florida Birds Collection by artist Dawn Currie
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Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis): The Brown Pelican is a comically elegant bird with an oversized bill, sinuous neck, and big, dark body. They feed by plunge-diving from high up, using the force of impact to stun small fish before scooping them up. When not foraging, pelicans stand around fishing docks, jetties, and beaches or cruise the shoreline.
While the Brown Pelican is draining the water from its bill after a dive, gulls often try to steal the fish right out of its pouch - sometimes while perching on the pelican's head. Pelicans themselves are not above stealing fish, as they follow fishing boats and hang around piers for handouts.
In flight, lines of pelicans glide on their broad wings, often surfing updrafts along wave faces or cliffs. Their wingbeats are slow, deep, and powerful. Squadrons glide above the surf along southern and western coasts, rising and falling in a graceful echo of the waves.
Adult Brown Pelicans are gray-brown birds with yellow heads and white necks. In breeding plumage, the back and sides of the neck turn a rich, dark reddish-brown. Immatures are gray-brown above (including the head and neck) with pale whitish belly and breast. The oldest Brown Pelican on record was 43 years of age.
They are fairly common today - an excellent example of a species' recovery from pollution that once placed them at the brink of extinction.
My favorite place for observing and photographing the Brown Pelican is Sebastian Inlet State Park on the Atlantic Coast of Florida.
January 21st, 2014
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