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What is a Brown Pelican?

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  • Written By: Anna T.
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2016
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The brown pelican is a type of bird that is dark in color, which makes it unique compared to other types of pelicans that are normally white. These birds may grow to be as long as 54 inches (137 cm) with a wingspan of 79 inches (200 cm). The average weight of a brown pelican does not typically exceed 11 pounds (5 kg), with most birds weighing around 8 pounds (3 kg). At first glance, brown pelicans tend to look a lot like gulls. When examined closely, the large pouch under the bill and short legs with webbed feet may make it clear that the bird is a type of pelican.

Brown pelicans are found primarily around oceans. This is another factor that makes this type of pelican somewhat different from other members of its species, because most other types of pelicans are usually seen hovering around lake sides. These birds are usually found along the coasts of both North and South America, as far south as Chile and as far north as Canada. They are common along both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

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The diet of an average brown pelican consists mostly of fish and occasionally various types of crustaceans. Brown pelicans usually catch their prey by diving into the water after it. After the prey has been captured inside the bird's large pouch, the bird will normally surface and let the excess water drain out from the sides of its bill before swallowing the fish whole. The brown pelican often has to fight off hungry gulls that will go to great lengths to steal its captured prey, including perching on top of the brown pelican's head and pulling fish out of its mouth.

Once a female brown pelican has chosen her mate and the mating process is complete, she will begin to build a nest out of materials brought to her by her mate. These birds usually lay about two or three eggs, which must be incubated for roughly one month. Brown pelicans incubate their young by standing on them. This is considered somewhat unusual, because most birds sit on their young to incubate them. After about two or three months spent being cared for by both parents, young brown pelicans are ready to leave their nests for good.

The brown pelican was a threatened species until 1985, when conservation measures went into effect. As of 2010, they are no longer considered endangered. There are occasionally some people who hunt these birds for their feathers or to try and keep their numbers down so they don't interfere with the fish population, but the overall population has been steadily increasing since the 1980s. In most cases, these birds will live for up to 25 years in the wild.

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