We were privileged to document the noble Brown Pelican landing at Lakeside Park in Tucson. This impressive sea-bird extended its wings (almost 8′ wingspan) to brake before alighting on the water.
Various migratory birds wind up off course due to bad weather and end up in Arizona lakes.
Brown Pelicans have an extremely long bill with a large pouch attached on the lower half. The pelicans pouch is used to catch fish.
According to the LA Times, these odd looking large Brown Pelicans were nearly driven to extinction because of abuse from hunters and fishermen.
Hunters coveted its plumage and commercial fishermen believed pelicans were gobbling too many fish. These sea birds were also hurt by the effects of a chemical pesticide, DDT. It is no wonder brown pelicans were placed on the federal endangered species list.
Louisiana’s state bird is the Brown Pelican. This bird started to make a recovery, only to suffer again from the coastal damage incurred from the oil spills.
During the oil spill in 2010, this whole area was covered with oil, said P.J. Hahn, a coastal zone director in Louisiana. The brown pelican was particularly at risk because it dives beneath the water’s surface to forage.
Dedicated teams worked diligently to save the brown pelicans after the massive oil spill.
(above photo courtesy of http://www.latimes.com/ Los Angeles Times)
Are Brown Pelicans, still on the endangered species list?
The Brown Pelican finally came off the endangered species list in 2009. Now, there is a growing fear history could repeat itself because there is not enough habitat for the birds to nest.
One of the most prominent characteristics to observe for this large pelican, also called the California Brown Pelican, is the way it forages for food. It dives beneath the water surface. Pelicans simply catch the fish in their pouch, drain the water out and swallow the fish immediately.
Watching the Pelicans effortlessly fly, gallantly dive, and methodically fish was one of the highlights of our year!
These Sea Birds can facilely glide low over the water; so low their wingtips often brush the waves – with occasional slow, powerful wing beats to gain speed.
Brown Pelican birds are the only pelican to plunge dive to catch their prey, other species of pelicans fish from the surface of the water.
They can be seen performing a surface plunge from as high as 20 meters to catch their prey!
Click below to watch a short video of Brown Pelicans diving for fish:
In flight, the Brown Pelicans hold their head back on their shoulders and rest their bill on their folded neck.
Pairs of Brown Pelicans are monogamous for a single season but the pair bond extends only to the nesting area; away from the nest, mates are independent.
From the fossil record, it is known that pelicans have been around for over 40 million years. Brown Pelicans live on both coasts in the United States.
Nesting and roosting birds are very sensitive to human disturbance, load noises from boats etc… Nest disturbance is the biggest reason for a bird to abandon its nest. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it illegal to tamper with, or destroy active nests of native wild birds. If there are eggs or babies – you cannot touch the nest or harass the birds in any way.
Brown Pelicans reach sexual maturity at 3-5 years of age. Adult Brown Pelicans have few natural predators.
Quick Brown Pelican Facts:
- Young pelicans feed by sticking their bills into their parents’ throats
- Pelicans build large nest structures on the ground, in trees, or on vegetation
The nesting season can extend from January through October
Brown pelicans normally lay three eggs and the adults share incubation duties
They can dive from 60 feet in the air
Brown pelicans can live up to 40 years old
A pelican’s throat pouch can hold over 2 gallons of water
If you see Brown Pelicans in Arizona PLEASE Call AZ Game and Fish at 520-290-9453 and let them know.