The Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) is the smallest of the eight species of pelican, although it is a large bird in nearly every other regard. It is 106–137 cm (42–54 inch) in length weighs from 2.75 to 5.5 kg and has wings as wide as 2.5 m (8.2 ft)
The Brown Pelican occurs on coasts in America from Washington and Virginia south to northern Peru and to the mouth of the Amazon River, as well as the island of Saut d’Eau in Trinidad and Tobago.
Some immature birds may stray to inland freshwater lakes. After nesting, North American birds move in flocks further north along the coasts, returning to warmer waters for winter. Their young ones are hatched in broods of about 3, and eat around 150 lbs of fish in the 8–10 month during the period they are taken care of.
This bird is distinguished from the American White Pelican because of its brown body and its habit of diving for fish from the air, as opposed to co-operative fishing from the surface. It mainly eats fish and amphibians as well as crustaceans. Groups of Brown Pelicans often travel in a single file, flying low over the water’s surface.
The nest locations vary from a simple scrape on the ground on an island to a bulky stick nest in a low tree. These birds nest in colonies and its usually on the islands.
Pesticides like DDT and dieldrin threatened the Brown Pelican’s future in the southeast United States and California in the early 1970s. Pesticides also threatened the pelican population in Florida during the same period.
A research group from the University of Tampa headed by Dr. Ralph Schreiber conducted research in the Tampa Bay/St Petersburg area and found that DDT caused the pelican eggshells to be too thin and incapable of supporting the embryo to maturity.
As a result of this research, DDT usage was eliminated in Florida, followed by the rest of the US. Along with the American White Pelican, the Brown Pelican is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List listed the Brown Pelican as Least Concern since 1988. The US government imposed a ban on the use of DDT in 1972. Since then, the population of Brown Pelican has increased. Current estimates show that the population of Brown Pelican is about 650,000.
Millions of barrels of crude oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused by the explosion in April 2010 of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico may drift ashore and threatened the subspecies of the Brown Pelican that lived in Louisiana.