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Brown Pelican

Brown-headed Cowbird
Brown Kiwi

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Brown Kiwi

  • Apteryx australis
  • Ratites

About the Brown Pelican

The Brown Pelican is the smallest of seven species of the pelican family. It lives strictly on the Atlantic coast from Washington and Virginia to the mouth of the Amazon River. Some immature birds may stray to inland freshwater lakes. After nesting, North American birds move in flocks further north along the coasts, returning to warmer waters for winter.

The Brown Pelican is distinguished from the American White Pelican by its brown body and its habit of diving for fish from the air, as opposed to co-operative fishing from the surface. Groups of Brown Pelicans often travel in single file, flying low over the water's surface as in a squadron.

The nest location of Brown Pelicans varies from a simple scrape on the ground on an island to a bulky stick nest in a low tree. The Pelican nests in colonies, usually on islands.

Details & Stats

Hatched Added to Birdorable on: 16 March 2007
Scientific Name Pelecanus occidentalis
  • Pelecaniformes
  • Pelecanidae
  • Pelecanus
  • P. occidentalis
Birdorable Family Waterbirds
Conservation Status Least Concern
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Near Threatened (NT)
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Endangered (EN)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Extinct in the Wild (EW)
  • Extinct (EX)
Source: IUCN Red List
(as of 15 September 2017)
Units: Imperial Metric
42 to 54 inches
72 to 98 inches
96 to 192 ounces
Range North America Central America Caribbean South America United States (West) United States (East)

International Names

  • Pelicano-pardo (Brazilian)
  • 褐鹈鹕 (Chinese)
  • Pelikán Hnědý (Czech)
  • Brun Pelikan (Danish)
  • Bruine Pelikaan (Dutch)
  • Ruskopelikaani (Finnish)
  • Pélican Brun (French)
  • Braunpelikan (German)
  • Pellicano Bruno (Italian)
  • カッショクペリカン (Kasshokuperikan) (Japanese)
  • Brunpelikan (Norwegian)
  • Pelikan Brunatny (Polish)
  • Бурый пеликан (Russian)
  • Pelícano Alcatraz (Spanish)
  • Brun Pelikan (Swedish)

Related articles & downloads

Baby Birdorable: Brown Pelican

Baby Birdorable: Brown Pelican

If you think our Birdorable birds are cute as adults, what about when they are babies? Below are some baby photos (shared via Flickr) of the Brown Pelican. Brown Pelicans are social ... more