Brown Pelican

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Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

 

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

 

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

Climate Endangered

Brown Pelican

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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Focal Species
Linda Tanner/Flickr Creative Commons
Cool Facts

The oldest recorded Brown Pelican lived to be 43 years old.

During courtship, birds on the Pacific Coast develop extensive bright red on their pouches; most pelicans on the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast have dark gray-green pouches.

Contrary to popular legend, pelicans do not store food in their pouches.

A plunge-diving Brown Pelican hits the water with its body twisted to the left. This probably helps avoid injury to the trachea and esophagus, which are located on the right side of the neck.


An icon of coastal waters, this species is projected to lose 54 percent of current winter range by 2080, according to Audubon’s climate model. A potentially significant expansion of range may be possible—but much of this is well away from the coastal areas required for this species. One big uncertainty facing the bird in the coming decades is how climate change will affect its prey fish, even along its required coastal habitats.

Species Range Change from 2000 to 2080

The size of the circles roughly indicates the species’ range size in 2000 (left) and 2080 (right).

The amount of overlap between the 2000 circle and the 2080 circle indicates how stable the range will be geographically. Lots of overlap means the bird’s range doesn’t shift much. No overlap means the species will leave its current range entirely.

About This Bird

An ungainly looking bird, with its oversized bill and stocky body, the Brown Pelican is an elegant flier. When traveling it may glide low above the surf; when hunting it will perform spectacular dives, from as high as 60 feet, plunging into the water to scoop up a fish in its bill pouch. A highly sociable bird, the pelican is often seen roosting or flying in large groups. It lives year-round in estuaries and coastal marine habitats along the shores of the southern half of the United States, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. Young pelicans frequently venture north during warm months only to encounter potentially lethal winter storms and irregular food supplies later in the season. The pelican has rebounded from seriously reduced numbers, thanks to the banning of DDT and rigorous recovery efforts.

Cool Facts

The oldest recorded Brown Pelican lived to be 43 years old.

During courtship, birds on the Pacific Coast develop extensive bright red on their pouches; most pelicans on the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast have dark gray-green pouches.

Contrary to popular legend, pelicans do not store food in their pouches.

A plunge-diving Brown Pelican hits the water with its body twisted to the left. This probably helps avoid injury to the trachea and esophagus, which are located on the right side of the neck.


Birds at Risk

Explore more birds threatened by climate change around the country.

Allen's Hummingbird
Baird's Sparrow
Bald Eagle
Brown Pelican
Burrowing Owl
Cerulean Warbler
Common Loon
Eastern Whip-poor-will
Golden Eagle
Greater Sage-Grouse
Hooded Oriole
Mississippi Kite
Northern Shoveler
Osprey
Piping Plover
Ruffed Grouse
Rufous Hummingbird
Spotted Owl
Tundra Swan
White-throated Sparrow
Yellow-billed Magpie