Brown Pelicans in the Everglades
On your next airboat tour with Everglades Holiday Park, you are sure to run into some interesting wildlife. Of course, you will want to keep your eyes peeled for alligators and crocodiles, but don’t ignore the Brown Pelicans in the Everglades, floating beside you or flying above you; these birds can be quite amusing.
Out of every different kind of pelican species worldwide, Brown Pelicans are the smallest. They are not actually small though – they can get up to 5 feet in length and their wingspan can be up to 8 feet across. They also have big bills with large pouches in their throat to hold their water and prey. Brown Pelicans are more commonly found in coastal areas, and there is a great amount of them in the southeast region of the United States. South Florida boaters are so used to Brown Pelicans hanging around their ports and piers, they often stop noticing them all together. Brown Pelicans in the Everglades are not always brown. Their heads are white, but their big, dark bodies are sometimes more gray, tan, or black in color. People often mistake them for being covered in dirt, but that’s just their natural shade.
Brown Pelicans can live near saltwater, mangrove forests, or freshwater, which is why you can easily spot them during an Everglades airboat tour. The Brown Pelican is a very strong swimmer and flyer, but are awkward on land, which makes them funny for bird-watching in the Everglades.
There are plenty of bird species living in the Everglades of South Florida, so what makes the Brown Pelican so unique?
One of the more interesting facts about the Brown Pelican is its technique for food gathering. They are one out of the two kinds of pelicans that dive for their food. When they spot their favorite food (fish, amphibians, or crustaceans) not only do they dive for it, but they’ll dive from heights as great as 60 feet in the air, head first, and completely submerge themselves underwater during the hunt. The Brown Pelican rotates to the left when it dives into the water, in order to protect their esophagus from the impact. Their bills can hold three-times more food than their stomachs can, which is why they must drain unnecessary water before swallowing their prey whole.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Brown Pelicans were in danger of going extinct. Over the last twenty to thirty years, Brown Pelicans have made an excellent recovery in population numbers and can now be spotted on nearly every Everglades airboat ride, boat ride through the intercostal, and alongside the beaches of South Florida.