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Marine Animal Encyclopedia

Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis

Commonly seen inshore and in harbors, the brown pelican is the heaviest sea bird that fishes by plunge-diving. Groups of brown pelicans often fish together, skimming over the waves before rising into the air, folding back their wings, and hitting the water with a spectacular splash. The pelican’s throat pouch balloons outward underwater, scooping up prey, which it then swallows at the surface.

Brown Pelicanzoom image
  • Order Pelecaniformes
  • Length 4–5 ft (1.2–1.6 m)
  • Weight 7–10 lb (3.5–4.5 kg)
  • Habitat Coastal waters, estuaries, islands
  • Distribution Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North and South America, Galápagos Islands
Brown Pelican habitat mapzoom image