Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis

  • Order: Pelecaniformes
  • Family: Pelecanidae
  • Polytypic: 5 subspecies
  • Authors needed...

The Brown Pelican is widespread in the Caribbean, the northern coasts of South America, and the Pacific Coast south to Peru. A dark-colored pelican, it is distinctive through most of its range. In Ecuador and Peru, however, its distribution overlaps with the similar Peruvian Pelican (Pelecanus thagus), with which it is sometimes considered conspecific. The Peruvian is considerably larger than Brown, with conspicuous pale wing coverts and scapulars. The Brown Pelican breeds on islands or in remote coastal locations, placing its nest on the ground, on a cliff, or occasionally in a shrub or small tree. Unlike most pelicans, it is highly marine and feeds largely by plunge-diving. It takes largely fish, but also some shrimp and often attends boats or ports in search of offal.

Help complete this species

There are many ways to contribute—we need species information, photographs, audio, video, translations, maps, distribution data, and bird sightings. There's a role for everyone!

Learn more

Agonistic sound

© Jay McGowan

  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding

Recommended Citation

Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), In Neotropical Birds Online (T. S. Schulenberg, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. retrieved from Neotropical Birds Online: