The Brown Pelican of Costa Rica
The Brown Pelican is a deft and buoyant, diving predator whose food may at times be stolen by other birds that frequent the same hunting grounds it does.
Brown Pelican Distribution
Brown Pelicans can be found on both coasts of the Americas. The span of their habitats range from Venezuela to Nova Scotia on the Atlantic Coast, and British Columbia to Southern Chile on the Pacific Coast. The immature birds of Pelecanus Occidentalis will fly inland to lakes, but the birds that have passed adolescence frequent the coasts, wetlands and mangrove swamps.
Mating & Reproduction
The male Brown Pelican will pick out the nesting site in mangroves or on an island. He will perform a sort of dance to entice a female counterpart to join him. Once the pair has been established they will consummate the relationship in the nest that the male has constructed in either trees or on the ground.
A female Brown Pelican will lay a clutch of 2 to 3 eggs which will hatch within 28 to 30 days. Both the male and the female will take turns taking care of the young. The nestlings will begin walking around 35 days after birth if the nest is on the ground. If the nest is in a tree, the chicks won’t leave the nest for 68 to 88 days. The parents take care of their young for around 8 to 10 months, and try to keep them safe from the American Alligator, feral cats, foxes, skunks, raptors and gulls who prey on the young birds.
Brown Pelicans are social birds, and they live in large flocks that will fly in a variety of patterns. They are migratory birds. They can be found in the warmer waters of Mexico and Central America in the winter months. These birds are spectacular hunters, and will sometimes dive for their prey from heights above 60 feet over the water. They are the targets of kleptoparasites such as gulls, skuas and frigatebirds who try to steal the fish they catch.
Brown Pelicans mostly subsist on a diet of fish. They will also make a meal of amphibians, prawns and crustaceans at times. These rather large birds take down around four pounds of fish on average every day. They are rather clumsy on land, but their internal air sacs and light but firm porous bones make them quite elegant in the water and the sky.
The Brown Pelican is the smallest of eight different species of pelicans at 106 to 137 cm in length and 2.75 to 5.5 kilos in weight. The pelican’s bill is from 28 to 34.8 cm long with a gular pouch which it uses for picking primarily fish out of the water. Once the pelican swoops down and has caught its prey, it will allow the water it has collected to drain from its mouth before swallowing.
The Brown Pelican is the state bird of Louisiana.
Locations in Costa Rica: Corcovado National Park, Marino Ballena National Park, Marinas Las Baulas National Park, Santa Rosa National Park, Ostional National Wildlife Refuge
Diet: fish, amphibians, crustaceans
Migration Pattern: North to South in fall/winter. South to North in spring/summer.
Habitat: mangrove swamp, coasts, wetlands
Size: length=106-137 cm (42-54 in) weight= 28-34.8 cm (11-13.7 in)
Species: Pelecanus Occidentalis