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Brown Pelican Identification

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The Four Keys to ID

  • Size & Shape

    Brown Pelicans are huge, stocky seabirds. They have thin necks and very long bills with a stretchy throat pouch used for capturing fish. Their wings are very long and broad and are often noticeably bowed when the birds are gliding.

    Relative Size

    Huge. Slightly smaller than an American White Pelican; much larger than a Herring Gull.

    Relative Sizegoose or largergoose-sized or larger

    • Both Sexes
      • Length: 39.4-53.9 in (100-137 cm)
      • Weight: 70.5-176.4 oz (2000-5000 g)
      • Wingspan: 78.7 in (200 cm)

Regional Differences

On the Pacific Coast, Brown Pelican adults have red skin on their throats in the breeding season. On the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Brown Pelicans are slightly smaller and their throat skin is greenish black.