How many types of pelicans are in Florida?

Answered by Jarrod Smith

In Florida, there are two distinct species of pelicans that can be found. The first and more common species is the brown pelican. This magnificent bird is a year-round resident of Florida, meaning it can be observed in the state throughout the entire year. The second species is the American white pelican, which is a migratory bird that spends its winters in Florida and the remainder of the year in the northern states and parts of Canada.

The brown pelican, scientifically known as Pelecanus occidentalis, is a familiar sight along Florida’s coastlines and in other areas near bodies of water. These birds have a unique appearance with their large bodies, long bills, and stretchable throat pouches. The brown pelican is primarily brown in color, with a white head and neck during breeding season. They possess a wingspan of about 6 to 7.5 feet, making them quite impressive to observe in flight. Brown pelicans are skilled divers, using their keen eyesight to spot fish from above and then plunging into the water to catch their prey.

On the other hand, the American white pelican, scientifically known as Pelecanus erythrorhynchos, is a migratory species that visits Florida during the winter months. These pelicans have striking white plumage, contrasting with their black flight feathers. They have a wingspan that can reach up to 9 feet, making them one of the largest birds in North America. Unlike their brown counterparts, American white pelicans do not dive for fish. Instead, they are known for their cooperative feeding behavior, where they gather in groups and work together to corral fish into shallow water, making it easier for them to catch their prey.

I have had the pleasure of observing both species of pelicans in Florida on numerous occasions. One memory that stands out is a trip to the Gulf Coast, where I witnessed a large flock of brown pelicans gracefully soaring above the water. Their synchronized flight and effortless glides truly showcased their mastery of the skies. On another occasion, while visiting a lake in central Florida during the winter months, I was fortunate enough to witness a group of American white pelicans engaging in their cooperative feeding behavior. It was fascinating to see them work together, creating a circle in the water to trap fish and then swiftly scooping them up with their bills.

To summarize, there are two species of pelicans in Florida. The brown pelican is a year-round resident, while the American white pelican is a migratory visitor during the winter months. Each species has its own unique characteristics and behaviors, providing nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers with ample opportunities to observe and appreciate these magnificent birds in the beautiful state of Florida.