Saturday, 2 February 2013

Brown Pelican

order : Pelecaniformes      Genus & Species : Pelecanidae     Family : Pelecanus occidentalis

The brown pelican is 1 of 7 pelican species in the genus Pelecanus. With its madcap crashing dives and billowing throat pouch, the brown pelican is less than elegant when feeding, yet it plunders fish from coastal waters with ruthless efficiency. The brown pelican surveys coastal waters in large squadrons, crashing into the sea below to “bag” fish by expanding its spacious throat pouch. They found in the east and west coasts of the Americas, from California and the Carolinas, south to northern Chile and northeastern Brazil; also found on the Galapagos Islands and most Caribbean islands. 

Habitat : The brown pelican is a bird of coastlines, seldom wandering more than a few miles to inland lagoons or venturing out to sea beyond sight of the shore. Though its ties to the ocean fringe are strictly defined, its choice of coastline homes is broad. In its range in the Americas, it’s found on rocky shores in Baja California, among the mangrove swamps of Belize, along beach resorts in the Caribbean and on islets off western South America. Parties of brown pelicans in flight are also a familiar sight along many tourist beaches and even over coastal cities. 
Food & Hunting : The brown pelican sometimes catches food by lunging down from the surface, but is renowned for its diving prowess. A pelican looking for prey flies 10–30' above the sea — a sufficient drop to carry the bird just below the surface to snatch its meal. To dive, the pelican stalls in flight and plunges headlong into the water. Moments later, it returns to the surface, drains the water from its bulging pouch, then swallows the fish it has caught. Fish are the mainstay of the pelican’s diet, but at docks and fishing boats, it feeds on fish offal. It also consumes other animal scraps, as well as injured chicks at its breeding colony. 
Behavior : Brown pelicans are sociable birds that feed, roost and nest together. Though sighted alone or in small groups, they also gather in flocks (up to 70 birds). Typically, a pelican spends much of its time at rest, floating on the water surface, standing on the shoreline or perched on rocks or in trees. When it settles on land and shuffles about on perches on its large webbed feet, the pelican seems a clumsy bird. But when airborne, it has unexpected grace, soaring high on updrafts or skimming low over the water with consummate ease. 
Breeding : Nesting colonies may be located on the ground on secluded islands, on a series of rock ledges or in trees. A male makes the first move at breeding time, seeking out a nest site and trying to attract mates with ritualized movements of its head and bill. If successful, the male then presents the female with sticks and other plant matter from which she builds a nest. The clutch contains two or three eggs, which hatch after an incubation period of 30 days. The chicks are provided with regurgitated fish food by each parent and after a few weeks, are strong enough to walk. Parents continue to feed their young for several weeks more until, at about 12 weeks old, they gain their flight feathers and are ready to start fishing for themselves. 

Bill : The bill is 10–14" long.The upper mandible is hooked at the tip to prevent fish escaping from the pouch.The lower mandible has two parts and is joined by the skin of the pouch. 
Pouch : Expandable pouch is attached to the lower throat and lower mandible of its bill.When distended, it forms a scoop with a 2.5-gallon capacity. 
Feet : Stout, gray-black feet are webbed to propel the pelican when it swims.They’re also used like paddles to help this heavy bird become airborne during its long take-off “run” from the water and as “water skis” when it lands. 

Weight : 8 lbs.
Length : 4-5'
Wingspan : 9'
Sexual Maturity : 2-3 years
Breeding Season : Varies with location

Despite their sociability, adult pelicans make few contact calls; these are limited to clucking sounds.

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