Brown Pelican

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.

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Details & Statistics

Added to Birdorable
Hatched on 16 March 2007
Scientific Name
Pelecanus occidentalis
  • Pelecaniformes
  • Pelecanidae
  • Pelecanus
  • P. occidentalis
Birdorable Family
Conservation Status
Least Concern (as of 20 March 2020)
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Near Threatened (NT)
  • Vulnerable (VU)
  • Endangered (EN)
  • Critically Endangered (CR)
  • Extinct in the Wild (EW)
  • Extinct (EX)
Source: IUCN Red List
Units: Imperial / Metric
42 to 54 inches
72 to 98 inches
96 to 192 ounces


International Names

Brazilian (Português brasileiro) Pelicano-pardo
Chinese (汉语) 褐鹈鹕
Czech (Cesky) Pelikán Hnědý
Danish (Dansk) Brun Pelikan
Dutch (Nederlands) Bruine Pelikaan
Finnish (Suomi) Ruskopelikaani
French (Français) Pélican Brun
German (Deutsch) Braunpelikan
Italian (Italiano) Pellicano Bruno
Japanese (日本語) カッショクペリカン (Kasshokuperikan)
Norwegian (Norsk) Brunpelikan
Polish (Polski) Pelikan Brunatny
Russian (русский язык) Бурый пеликан
Spanish (Español) Pelícano Alcatraz
Swedish (Svenska) Brun Pelikan
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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