Fun Brown Pelican Facts For Kids

Divya Raghav
Mar 08, 2023 By Divya Raghav
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Brown pelican facts tell us that these birds can dive deep down in the water to catch prey.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.1 Min

The brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) is a pelican species mostly found in North and Central America. These birds are big, with a big body and long bill and an elongated multi-purpose pouch.

Less than 2% of brown pelicans can survive more than ten years. Read on for more facts!

If you liked these facts about the brown pelican, you could also check our guides on the Australian pelican and dalmatian pelican for more enriching and mind-blowing facts and guides.

Brown Pelican Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a brown pelican?

A brown pelican is a bird that belongs to the Pelican family, Pelecanidae, and is found mainly in America in the Atlantic and gulf. Brown pelicans are also known as North American birds of Pelican. The brown pelican's scientific name is Pelecanus occidentalis.

What class of animal does a brown pelican belong to?

The brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) belongs to the class Aves and is a warm-blooded vertebrate that lays eggs.

How many brown pelicans are there in the world?

There are more than 650,000 brown pelicans all across the globe, and they are mainly found in Central and North America. There are four subspecies of brown pelicans.

Where does a brown pelican live?

Brown pelicans are found in warm waters of Nearctic and Neotropical regions, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. They are found in Maryland, Virginia, North and South California, Florida, Alabama, California, Pacific coast, Gulf coasts, Texas, and California.

You can find them on offshore islands, Caribbean Islands, Gulf of Mexico, Galapagos Islands, U.S Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, and other such tropical parts in Mexico. They are also called North American Pelicans or North American birds or Pelicans birds of North America.

What is a brown pelican's habitat?

Brown pelicans are strictly coastal, living around 20 mi (32.2 km) away from the shoreline. They can be found in warm and coastal water habitats during the non-breeding season.

They also require dry areas without many disturbances. During the breeding season, they move to offshore islands where there are no predators. They can be found breeding in mangroves, humid Forests, and tropical forests as well.

Who do brown pelicans live with?

Brown pelicans stay in flocks of both males and females and even fly in groups and are known to be social birds flying above the water's surface in group formations that look like a 'V.'

How long does a brown pelican live?

The average life span range of pelican brown in the wild is around three to five years, and the longest living brown pelican lived until the age of 43 years.

How do they reproduce?

Brown pelicans are seasonally monogamous (they stick to the same partner only for the current breeding season) and are often observed to have an irregular nest pattern. For their nest site, they choose an offshore island with no predators. They migrate 20 to 30 degrees north to breed.

The male protects the potential nest before mating for three to four weeks. After that, a male generally initiates the courtship ritual. The courtship can last up to 21 days.

The females lay the first egg after three days of nest completion. The breeding takes place seasonally in colder climates. They lay two to three eggs per season.

Both parents incubate the eggs during nesting. They incubate their eggs for 29-32 days in length during the nesting period. In 31 hours, the young chicks hatch and need food.

The average fledging age is around 11 weeks. In three months, the young ones start getting independence after breeding. Females mature for breeding in two to four years.

Again, both parents feed them food. The average age for males to get mature for breeding is also two to four years. In 11-12 weeks, they become adults and are ready to catch small fish and small other aquatic animals.

What is their conservation status?

The brown pelican, or California brown pelican, was said to be Endangered at one point in time due to excess use of DDT and pollution, leading to a decrease in their population. Still, their population again rose back to normal with adequate efforts, and now they are on the Least Concern birds and species list.

Brown Pelican Fun Facts

What do brown pelicans look like?

brown pelicans all across the globe

Adult brown pelicans are huge with a big head, a long bill, and a large gular pouch. The males are heavier than the females.

They have webbing feet. Their throat pouch can hold up to three gallons of water at a time, and its color is dark gray-green, and during breeding, it turns to bright red. During the first year, the underside is white.

In three to five years, the upper area turns gray to gray-brown, the abdomen into black, and other parts with markings of black and silver stripes. Post breeding, the adult head becomes yellow, and the neck becomes white. Females are likely to molt before males.

They have big air sacs beneath the skin that help them to dive and maintain a buyout space. While diving, the throat pouch drains extra water and traps the fish inside.

How cute are they?

You can find a brown pelican bird cute because of its range of colors and display at different intervals of its life cycle.

How do they communicate?

Adult brown pelican birds can communicate through visuals, chemicals. They also communicate tactically and vocally as well. The adult pelicans bird communicate during a fish hunt, mate selection, nest building, and mating. The young ones can make scratchy sounds to call their parents who are in search of food. Adult birds use head movements and actions also to communicate.

How big is a brown pelican?

The average size range of an adult brown pelican bird species can range from 39.4-53.9 in (100-137 cm) in length and 78.7 in (200 cm) tall with its full wingspan.

How fast can a brown pelican fly?

The brown pelican can fly at a speed of 30 mph (48.3 kph).

How much does a brown pelican weigh?

The weight of this bird can range between 4.4-11 lb (2-5 kg) depending upon its size and length.

What are the male and female names of the species?

In this species, the male and female are referred to as a male brown pelican and a female brown pelican, respectively.

What would you call a baby brown pelican?

A baby brown pelican can be referred to as a young brown pelican or a chick in general terms.

What do they eat?

They are carnivores, and generally, pelicans feed on small fish species like herring, pigfish, fry fish, sheepshead, small marine invertebrates, aquatic crustaceans, and other small marine creatures.

Are they dangerous?

Though they are not that dangerous, they are quite big, and there have been instances where they snatch fish or other food from kids' hands and hurt them in the process.

Would they make a good pet?

No, pelicans do make good pets as they are sea birds and are quite large with a huge diet.

Did you know...

Did you know one of the eastern brown pelican facts for kids is that the present pelican has not changed much from ancient pelicans in the last 30-40 million years?

A flock of brown pelicans is called a brief, pod, pouch, scoop, or squadron.

Do brown pelicans mate for life?

No, they are monogamous breeders only for one season, so they usually don't mate for life. Then, after the chicks are big enough, they fly away and become independent.

Why are brown pelicans important?

They are the national birds of Saint Martin, Barbados, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. They are part of the official Louisiana seal. They are a great success to recover stories are indicator species about the fish stock, climate change, ecosystem health, and changes to its environment.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these Australian masked owl facts and Eurasian woodcock facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable brown pelican coloring pages.

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Written by Divya Raghav

Bachelor of Commerce specializing in Accounting and Finance, Master of Business Administration

Divya Raghav picture

Divya RaghavBachelor of Commerce specializing in Accounting and Finance, Master of Business Administration

With a diverse range of experience in finance, administration, and operations, Divya is a diligent worker known for her attention to detail. Born and raised in Bangalore, she completed her Bachelor's in Commerce from Christ University and is now pursuing an MBA at Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Bangalore. Along with her professional pursuits, Divya has a passion for baking, dancing, and writing content. She is also an avid animal lover who dedicates her time to volunteering for animal welfare causes.

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