Key West, Florida, February 1999
Minolta Maxxum 600si, Sigma 70 to 300 at 300
Kodak Ektachrome Slide, iso 100, spot metered
Brown Pelican (Pelicanus occidentalis)
The Brown Pelican is a large bird with a 6½ foot wingspan. It has an immense bill, and in breeding season its distensible gular (throat) pouch is olive to red. The body is grayish-brown with a blackish belly. Non-breeding adults have white heads and necks; breeding adults have dark chestnut hind-necks and a yellow patch at the base of the fore-neck. Immature Brown Pelicans have dark heads. In flight, the long neck is folded back on the body.
The Brown Pelican is a coastal bird that is rarely found away from the sea. The birds on the Pacific Coast nest on islands off the coasts of southern California and Mexico. After the breeding season, they move north along the coast, frequenting shallow marine areas such as bays, offshore islands, spits, breakwaters, and open sandy beaches.
While foraging, Brown Pelicans dive from 30 feet or more in the air, plunging headfirst into the water to catch fish. If successful, they throw their heads back to swallow prey. Brown Pelicans feed and roost together, and nest in colonies. Groups of Brown Pelicans may be seen flying low over the waves or in loose formation at greater heights. Brown Pelicans are generally silent after fledging.