Brown Pelican Spotlight

Brown Pelican
Photo courtesy of Rochester Institute of Technology

Brown Pelican
Pelecanus occidentalis

Description: The Brown Pelican is dark and bulky with a wingspan of 6.5 feet. The throat pouch suspends from the lower half of the hooked bill and can hold 3 gallons of water and fish.

Life History: The Brown Pelican lives in flocks and flies in groups. Unlike most birds, which warm their eggs with the skin of their breasts, pelicans incubate their eggs with their feet, essentially standing on the eggs to warm them. This incubation method made them vulnerable to the effects of the pesticide DDT, because the DDT made the eggshells thin, and the incubating parents frequently cracked their eggs. Brown Pelicans dive from the air for fish. They also eat crustaceans.

Habitat: The Brown Pelican is found along ocean shores and bays. They are rarely seen inland

Distribution: The Brown Pelican is a permanent resident of the coastal marine environment from central North America southward to northern South America. It breeds in scattered locations along the Atlantic coast from Maryland southward around Florida, and westward to southern Texas and Mexico; and on the Pacific Coast from southern California down to South America. The largest U.S. colony is on California's West Anacapa Island.

Status: The Brown Pelican is listed as endangered, except on the Atlantic coast, Florida, and Alabama. Pesticide poisoning, especially by DDT, caused huge declines in Brown Pelican status. After the ban on DDT, the Brown Pelican population recovered. The total population in the United States now exceeds historical figures.


Cornell University

National Audubon Society


White ibises
White Ibises [Image courtesy of Naturepicsonline]

Birds are endothermic (warm-blooded) animals that lay eggs. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that "birds are an important--and highly visible--part of the ecosystem. An estimated 63 million Americans feed birds at home, and more than 24 million travel to watch birds. Bird watchers spent $5.2 billion in 1991 on associated goods and services, supporting almost 200,000 jobs. Birds are important ecologically as well as economically. They are vital links in many food webs, and often serve as biological indicators of overall ecosystem health. In addition to these tangible benefits, healthy populations of birds enhance the quality of outdoor recreation--and overall quality of life--for countless Americans."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's bird conservation site lists several of the largest conservation initiatives and provides links to related sites of potential interest.

Partners In Flight

Shorebird Conservation

North American Bird Conservation Initiative

Important Bird Areas Program

Below are additional resources and information from the NBII Catalog pertaining to birds in the Central Southwest and Gulf Coast region. Search results can be restricted to a specific state by typing the state's name into the search box.

Bird Resources
Showing 25 of 290 ( Show All )

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Spotlight

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Credit: U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Archilochus colubris

Description: Ruby-throated hummingbirds are tiny birds at 4 inches long. The back and head are iridescent green, the underparts are white. Males have a brilliant red metallic throat and a forked tail. Females have a dull grayish throat, white tips on their wings and a square-tipped tail.

Life History: Ruby-throated hummingbirds are solitary. Adults only come into contact for the purpose of mating. The primary food sources of ruby-throated hummingbirds are floral nectar and small insects. They consume twice their body weight in food each day. Adult ruby-throated hummingbirds are vulnerable to predation by raptors, while blue jays predate nestlings. However, the most common predator of ruby-throated hummingbirds is probably house cats.

Habitat: The Ruby-throated Hummingbird can be found in deciduous and pine forests and forest edges, orchards, and gardens. During the winter, ruby-throated hummingbirds live in tropical deciduous forests, citrus groves, forest edges, hedgerows, along rivers and marshes, and in old fields.

Distribution: Ruby-throated hummingbirds are found in North and Central America. They breed throughout the eastern United States and in southern Canada where there is eastern and mixed deciduous forest. They winter in southern Mexico, Central America (as far south as Costa Rica), and in the West Indies.

Status: The Ruby-throated Hummingbird is not threatened and has not been given a special status. However, it is protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty between the U.S. and Canada, and like all hummingbirds, is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.


Animal Diversity Web

Cornell University

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