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Brown Pelican

Common Name Brown Pelican

Scientific Name Pelecanus occidentalis carolinensis

Species Birds

Family/Group Pelicans, Cormorants, Frigatebirds, and allies



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Unmistakable. Very large. Heavily built with long bill and pouch on lower mandible. Mostly gray above, the feathers outlined darker; dark brown below; crown and stripe down sides of neck white. Nonbreeding adults have head and neck whitish. Immature is brownish above and on head and neck, whitish below.

Habits and Behavior

The head is drawn back so that the bill rests on the neck, both perched and in flight. Flies with a characteristic few flaps and a sail. Lines of pelicans are often seen scaling low over the water; at other times they soar high on thermals. When feeding they fly roughly 9-15 m (30-50 ft) above water, then plunge down headfirst, extending neck just before entering water. Upon resurfacing, Laughing Gulls often attempt to snatch away their quarry. In shallow water pelicans also feed without diving by submerging and opening the bill.

Nicaragua Animal Guide