We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Pelican?

By Soo Owens
Updated Jun 04, 2024
Our promise to you
All Things Nature is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At All Things Nature, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The pelican is a waterbird known for its distinctive throat pouch, which it uses to catch its food. There are eight recorded species of pelicans that have been discovered all over the world. Pelicans primarily inhabit areas near large bodies of water, both fresh and salt, as well as lakes and rivers.

The eight species of pelican make up the family Pelecanidae. The Pelecanidae share the order Pelecaniformes with their distant relatives the boobies, cormorants, darters, frigatebirds, gannets, and tropicbirds. Members of this order live colonially and the individual fowl are monogamous. Their offspring are born helpless and require constant attention.

There are generally considered to be two groups of pelicans. The first has gray or brown plumage and nests in trees or, in the case of the Peruvian Pelican, on rocks. The second group is made up of those pelicans with white plumage that nest on the ground.

The Brown Pelican is the smallest member of the Pelecanidae and averages 6 pounds (2.75 kg), is 3.5 feet (1.06 m) long and has a 6 ft (1.83 m) wingspan. The Dalmatian Pelican is the largest averaging 33 pounds (15 kg) and 5.8 ft (1.8 m) in length, with a wingspan of up to 10 feet (3 m). The average bill can hold up to three gallons (11.5 liters) of water.

Pelicans are carnivores, consuming mostly fish, but also amphibians, crustaceans, and, seldom, smaller birds. They scoop fish out of the water with the large throat pouch attached at the bottom of the bill, and many species also use cooperative fishing methods when hunting. The birds form into a straight line or U-shape, flying low over the surface of the water while beating their wings against the surface. This drives the fish into shallow waters where the pelicans can easily scoop their prey out of the water.

The Brown Pelican is the exception to this tendency, as they feed primarily on menhaden, a type of herring, and use a more aggressive hunting style of diving and snaring its prey in its bill. The only other species observed utilizing this method are the Peruvian Pelican and the Australian Pelican, though the occurrence is rare.

Pelicans do not store their captive fish in their pouches. Instead, they feed immediately. If the pelican has young to feed then it opens its mouth and lets the young bird feed from its throat, where it has access to regurgitated nutrition.

The Brown Pelican was once considered endangered in North America. Due to DDT and dieldrin pesticide exposure, the eggs of these pelicans would become damaged and unable to sustain maturation of the embryo. The use of DDT pesticides was banned in 1972, and since then, the Brown Pelican has managed to repopulate and are no longer considered an endangered species. The Dalmatian Pelican is the rarest species of pelican, followed closely by the Spot-billed. The Australian and White Pelicans are the next two most common species.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Related Articles

Discussion Comments
By cmsmith10 — On May 14, 2011

@gardenturtle- Pelicans are very smart birds. When they catch their fish, they tip their pouches over so that they can drain the water out and then they eat the fish. Some pelicans, particularly the American white pelican, can hold up to 3 gallons of water in its bill at one time.

By GardenTurtle — On May 12, 2011

Since the pelicans eat their fish immediately, do they not end up swallowing a lot of water, as well?

All Things Nature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

All Things Nature, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.