The Bird Book/Pelicans

The Bird Book by Chester A. Reed
Pelicans: Family Pelecanidae



Pelicans are large, short legged, web footed (all four toes joined by a web) birds, the most noticeable feature of which is the long bill with its enormous pouch suspended from lower mandible. This pouch, while normally contracted, is capable of being distended to hold several quarts. It is used as a scoop in which to catch small fish. Their skin is filled with numerous air cells, making them very light and buoyant.

125. AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN. Pelecanus erythrorhynchos.

Range. Temperate North America, breeding in the interior, from Utah and the Dakotas northward. These large birds, reaching a length of five feet, are entirely white except for the black primaries. They get their food by approaching a school of small fish and, suddenly dipping their head beneath the surface, sometimes scoop up a large number of fish at a time; after allowing the water to run out of the sides of the mouth, they proceed to swallow their catch. They nest in large communities on islands in some of the inland lakes.

Great Salt Lake, Utah, and Shoal Lake, Manitoba, furnish breeding ground for many thousands of Pelicans. They build their simple nests on the ground, making them of sticks and weeds. They generally lay two eggs, but often three or four. Size 3.45 x 2.30. Data. Egg Island, Great Salt Lake, June 19, 1884. Two eggs. Nest a slight hollow in the ground, surrounded by a few sticks. Collector, F. F. Leonard.

Chalky white





126'. BROWN PELICAN. Pelecanus occidental.

Range. Found on the South Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States.

Brown Pelicans are about 50 inches in length; they have a blackish and grayish body and a white head and neck with a brown stripe down the back of the latter. The pouch is a dark greenish brown. This species is maritime and is not found inland. They breed in large colonies on many of the islands in the Gulf of Mexico and on

Brown Pelican

White Pelican

Chalky white

Pelican Island on the east coast of Florida, in which latter place they are now protected from further depredations at the hand of eggers and gunners. Their fishing tactics differ from those of the White Pelican. They dive down upon the school of fish from the air and rarely miss making a good catch. Their nests are quite bulky structures made of sticks and weeds and grasses. These are generally located on the ground but occasionally in low mangroves, these latter nests being more bulky than the ground ones. They lay from two to five chalky white eggs during May and June. Size 3. x 1.90. Data. Tampa Bay, Fla., May 29, 1894. Three eggs. Nest in the top of a stout mangrove; made of sticks, branches and leaves. Collector, Geo. Graham.

127. CALIFORNIA BROWN PELICAN. Pelecanus calif ornicus.

Range. Pacific coast from British Columbia south to the Galapagos Islands.

This bird is similar to the preceding, but larger and the pouch is reddish. They breed abundantly on the Coronado Islands and southward. Their habits, nesting habits and eggs are the same as those of the Brown Pelican. Size of the three or four chalky white eggs is 3.10 x 1.95. Data. Coronado Islands, Calif., March 28, 1897. Three eggs. Nest of sticks, lined with green leaves, located on the ground. Collector, H. McConville.