The Brown Pelican is a brown bird with a lighter tan head. It is easily recognized by its long, pouched bill that it uses to store food. This bill-pouch is made of elastic skin attached down the front of the throat. This skin can expand to hold huge amounts of fish and water. A pelican will then drain out the water and swallow the fish whole. Pelicans are about 45 inches long with wings that can be 6 to 7 feet in length! Brown pelicans usually weigh between 13 and 15 pounds. They also have webbed feet to help them move through water. Pelicans are also special for their toes: they have a back toe that faces forward to give extra webbing to the insides of their feet.
Brown pelicans are found throughout North America. They are water birds, living close to the shore of the oceans and the gulf coasts. Pelicans eat many kinds of fish with the help of their bill-pouch. When hunting, the pelican flies about 30 feet over the water. If it sees a fish underwater, the pelican will quickly dive down to snatch it in its bill. Even though it may be carried many fish, the pelican still manages to float to the surface of the water!
Pelicans nest in large groups. They build nests at the shores of the water out of reeds and branches, even occasionally floating leaves. After mating, the female pelican will sit on the nest for about 30 days, waiting for the eggs to hatch. She usually lays 2 or 3 eggs at a time. However, pelicans are very protective of their nests so it is not easy to track their behavior. Females continue to protect the chicks after they hatch, keeping them close by for almost 18 months. During this time, the chicks are slowly allowed to explore their homes and learn to hunt on their own.