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BIRD OF THE WEEK
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Pelecanus occidentalis
HABITAT: Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts of North and South America
Driven almost to extinction twice—first by hunting and later by pesticides including DDT—the Brown Pelican is today a shining example of the success of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the work of the Environmental Protection Agency. But these cornerstones of conservation are now themselves at risk.
Although the Brown Pelican is the smallest of the world’s eight pelican species, it’s still a big bird at four feet long (including the bill) with a seven- to eight-foot wingspan.
Brown Pelicans are primarily fish-eaters and require up to four pounds of fish a day. They feed by using their keen eyesight to spot underwater prey from the air then plunge-diving from heights of up to 70 feet. The force of their impact stuns small fish, enabling the birds to scoop up the prey in their throat pouches.