Bird Spotlight: Brown Pelican

Not only is the brown pelican the state bird of Louisiana, but it's a unique species that received much attention after the BP Oil Spill. The brown pelican is found along the ocean shores of the southwestern states, namely Louisiana. It's one of the seven species of pelicans and features short legs and a large, heavy body. The pelican is dark in color, with webbed feet, a short tail and long bill. What makes this pelican so unique is that it plunges into the air to catch its food.

With the threat of the oil spill last year, many brown pelicans died, while others were rescued, cleaned and tagged, only to return back to their Louisiana home. The pelicans were released into climates similar to Louisiana, in hopes that they would stay there and avoid going back into the oiled waters. Today, bird enthusiasts will catch the tagged pelicans, but no official tallies have been made.

With its unique look, large body and long bill, it's not difficult to spot a brown pelican. They are often found hanging around boats and piers, looking for food scraps and handouts from generous passerbys. Unlike other birds however, the brown pelican does not steal food from others seabirds. Yet gulls are often known to perch themselves on the heads of pelicans and try to steal fish out of their bills.

The warm, coastal environment makes Louisiana a prime location for brown pelicans. Although they are plentiful along the coast, they are not found on the inlands. Breeding with the brown pelican is stable, and the total population now exceeds past levels. However, the breed experienced a decline in the first half of the 20th century when shooting feathers was legal.

Source: All About Birds

Image: frishmangallery.com

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