Big Spacer image

Brown Pelicans

The Beaufort and Hilton Head Island area is home to the Brown Pelican. These large birds are commonly seen gliding effortlessly on the coastal winds and are known for their graceful dives into the water when feeding. Pelicans can be seen floating and walking the tidal creeks during low tides, and perched upon vertical poles and docks during both low and high tides.
They make great photography and art subjects.

About the Brown Pelican

There are 8 species of pelicans worldwide, but only the Brown Pelican is exclusively found on ocean shores and not on inland lakes. They are the only dark pelican and the only pelican that dives from the air and plunges into the water to catch its meal. They spot their catch from the air, then dive straight down, fold back their wings and plunge into the water head first. A large flexible pouch on their bill traps water and fish. The Pelican surfaces and drains the water out of the sides of bill, and swallows the fish. Often, sea gulls can be seen stealing fish from their pouch. One can observe this behavior all day long on in the Beaufort and Hilton Head Island rivers, beaches and tidal creeks. Often 20 or more Pelicans can be seen hunting together.

Saved from the Brink of Extinction

The Brown Pelican, like the Osprey, almost became extinct in the late 1950's. It was discovered that pesticides, especially DDT, were causing their eggs to develop thin shells. While most birds warm their eggs with the skin of their breasts, the Brown Pelican warms its eggs with their feet. They hold the eggs under the webs that stretch from the front toes to the hind toe, basically standing on the eggs to warm them. Because the egg shells became so thin, the incubating parents heavy weight frequently resulted in cracking the eggs. DDT was banned for use in the USA, and the Pelican was placed on the endangered species list between 1970 until 1985, after making a full recovery. Today, many believe there are more Brown Pelican's than there were a century ago.