Bad Hair Day
This was shot during a Whale Watching cruise off the shores of San Diego. During the return trip, with smooth following seas, this Pelican tracked the motion of the boat from the stern and executed a perfect and graceful landing on the back handrail. She was clearly looking for a snack, but was happy to ride along for close to 20 minutes.
The Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) is the smallest of the eight species of pelican, although it is a large bird in nearly every other regard. It is 42–54 inches in length, weighs from 6.1 to 12 lb and has a wingspan 6.0 to 8.2 ft.
The Brown Pelican occurs on coasts in the Americas from Washington and Virginia south to northern Peru and the mouth of the Amazon River. Some immature birds may stray to inland freshwater lakes. After nesting, North American birds move in flocks further north along the coasts, returning to warmer waters for winter. Their young are hatched in broods of about 3, and eat around 150 lbs. of fish in the 8–10 month period they are cared for.
This bird is distinguished from the American White Pelican by its brown body and its habit of diving for fish from the air, as opposed to co-operative fishing from the surface. It eats mainly fish and amphibians as well as crustaceans. Groups of Brown Pelicans often travel in single file, flying low over the water’s surface.