Brown Pelican Breeding & Nesting Habits - Brown Pelican Facts & Information


Brown Pelican
    Breeding & Nesting Habits





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Feather Color Marks Breeding Season

Most of the year, the heads and necks of brown pelicans are white. During the breeding season, the heads acquire a distinctive yellow color, and the sides and back of the neck turn dark reddish-brown. After courtship is over, the neck and head return to white.

Brown pelicans typically nest in colonies consisting of several hundred, sometimes several thousand birds. Mangroves are a favorite habitat, but the birds make do with other trees or, if nothing else is available, by nesting on the ground.

Whatever the location, the nest is intended to be well above the storm surge and away from the reach of predators, such as raccoons.

A female usually lays between two and three eggs in her large, bulky nest; one clutch a year is normal. The eggs, white-colored and about the size of a jumbo chicken eggs, hatch in about a month. Both parents take turn incubating.

The newborn chicks emerge only with a thin white fuzz and no feathers. Until feathers appear, the chicks have to rely on their parents' body heat for warmth. Once feathers are present, the chicks actively try to walk on their webbed feet, move their wings and practice holding up their large head.

Parents take turns collecting and regurgitating food. Feedings may occur up to a half-dozen times a day. The chicks are voracious eaters. They plunge so deeply inside a parent's pouch that at one time it was believed the chick's were actually feeding on blood from the parent's breast.

This is why the pelican was used in some Christian religious paintings as a symbol of the atonement, the reconciliation of man and God through Christ's sacrificial death.

Schooling of Chicks

Brown pelican chicks spend little time in the nest, only about five weeks. During this period, the fledglings learn to fly by standing at the size of the nest and imitating their parent, whom typically is standing on a nearby tree branch flapping its own wings. Soon, the youngsters will practice their flying by winging and stepping from one tree branch to another.

Parents must also teach fledglings the necessary skill for dive-bombing fish. Parents take this very seriously and they have been known to interrupt a youngster's diving practice in mid-flight if the form is badly off. The watery impact could possibly damage or even break a wing while a young bird is learning, but it seems to rarely happen.

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How Brown Pelicans Feed

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To Where to See Nesting Brown Pelicans

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