Bird Introductions – Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican Photo by Scott Bourne

This brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) was fishing near me in Florida. I have always been drawn to pelicans for three reasons.

  1. They love the sea and so do I you’ll generally find them on the sea coast, fishing or sunning themselves. They are very accessible and being a large bird, easy to spot. When I was young just starting out in birding, pelicans were one of the first species I spent time with because of their accessibility.
  2. I love watching them fish. They dive, plunging into the water, stunning small fish with the impact of their large bodies and scooping them up in their expandable throat pouches. Sometimes to “clear their throat” they will do a head throw that is hard to describe, but once seen, hard to “un-see.” It’s truly amazing. (Side note –  gulls often try to steal the fish right out of a pelican’s pouch. Nature is amazing.)
  3. I love to see them in breeding plumage. Most of the time they are rather drab brown but when in breeding plumage, they sport bright yellow heads with a red patch on their throat.

The only word I can consistently come up with to describe pelicans is majestic. With a wing span of up to seven feet, and an ability to spot a fish from 60 feet high in the air, they have few equals when it comes to fishing.

As a boy, watching them fly in V-formation as a flock was always a great thrill. Even now, I stand in awe when they fly by.

Get to know pelicans. They are a bird worthy of your attention and admiration.


If you’d like to show your appreciation for this site, please consider the purchase of prints or gifts featuring Scott’s bird art, visit scottbourne.photos for more information.

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Scott Bourne View All →

Scott Bourne is an Olympus Visionary, a professional bird/wildlife photographer, author and lecturer who specializes in birds. He is a pioneer in digital photography and was named one of the “30 most influential photographers on the Web” by Huffington Post. His photographic experience spans four decades and his bird/wildlife images have been published in more than 200 magazines and periodicals. He is also a Signed Master at Studio of Masters in China.

Scott has been a founder, co-founder, advisor or early stage investor in several technology companies such as NetRadio, Photofocus, and ViewBug.

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