Left Photo Credit: Tung Chee
Upper Right Photo Credit: Will Elder, NPS
Lower Left Photo Credit: Ron LeValley

Superb fishers and efficient predators, the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) is the only species of pelican that dives from the air into the water to catch its food. The California Brown Pelican has been observed roosting on Golden Gate National Recreation sites such as Seal Rocks, Alcatraz Island, Hyde Street Pier, Bird Island, and Kent Island in Bolinas Lagoon – as well as many other locations throughout the region.

Most U.S. populations have been increasing or stable in the past several years, and the species was delisted in November of 2009. The brown pelican still faces threats, however, such as boating and active recreation in roosting areas, pollution and oil spills, and various climatic factors. Populations are also extremely susceptible to the effects of chemical/pesticide contamination, which can produce eggshell thinning and potentially lethal poisoning. In the 1950s and 60s, brown pelican populations suffered a dramatic loss from the effects of widespread use of DDT and other chemical pesticides. Since the banning of DDT in 1972, along with the regulation and disposal of other chemicals, pelicans are rebounding and historical levels are increasing.