Brown Pelicans On The Wing

I’ve been working on the challenge of Brown Pelicans in flight.  Here’s some of my favorites from the last few weeks.

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Brown Pelicans, the smallest of all Pelican species, weigh approximately 8 pounds, have a wingspan of almost 7 feet, and live up to 40 years.

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It was 37 to 65 million years ago during the Paleocene and Eocene periods when birds first took to the air.  Scientists have concluded Pelicans were there during that time period.  It is documented that the pelican’s fossil record has barely changed in 30 to 40 million years.

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Many people commonly mistake the Pterodactyl as a relative of the Pelican species but this is not true; the Pterodactyl was a flying reptile so it never developed feathers, the important ingredient to becoming a bird.

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I’ve enjoyed photographing the local Brown Pelicans in great length.  More on profiles and dives to follow….


58 thoughts on “Brown Pelicans On The Wing

  1. Wonderful job capturing these guys in flight. I know how challenging it can be. Interesting info on the birds. I did not know they lived that long. Great post!

  2. Donna, these are wonderful! I love the detail in all the photos – individual and groups! You must have really enjoyed watching and ‘capturing’ all these amazing birds!

  3. Great flight captures Donna. Whenever we visited Sanibel Island on the FL Gulf Coast I would love to photograph the pelicans gliding just a few feet above the water, or twist/contort their bodies at higher altitudes, tuck in their wings, and dive headlong into the water for fish… and then start to gather take-off speed with their webbed feet across the water’s surface to be able to create enough lift to get airborne once more.

      • I agree … their sudden mid-air twist/dive can be tough to anticipate. I watch their head motion to see if something may have caught their attention and start to track and shoot just in case that’s the moment they may dive. Nonetheless there’s certainly an element of luck in capturing that moment and tracking them all the way (in focus) down to the water and impact… capturing their fast dive takes lots of practice. And needless to say, you’ve never seen the many missed or out-of-sharp-focus shots that I’ve made… those bits got recycled! 😀

    • Thanks Chris! There are actually eight species of Pelicans around the world. In the U.S., we have the Brown Pelican and the American White Pelican. In Australia you have the Australian White Pelican which is a bit different from ours. I think the White Pelicans are the most beautiful of them all. 🙂

  4. Wonderful series of Pelican images, Donna. All beautifully shot– I did smile at the black and white…he seems to be saying,”Ta Da!” Great post- thanks.

  5. I loved seeing the beautiful brown pelican here, Donna — such a variety of creative poses and photos, all highlighting the beauty of this special bird. Enjoyed the narrative too. I especially like that first photo with the shadow of the long, pointy bill on the pelican’s own wing.

    • Thanks Jet, they are a fun to photo their unique qualities. This is the first I’ve been able to spend many days watching them for long periods of time. They are qawky, yet comical, and can provide a lot of entertainment! 🙂

  6. Absolutely gorgeous. I love Brown Pelicans. They seem so elegantly comfortable whether they’re in the air, the water, or sitting on a boat… Looking forward to the dives!

  7. Great “In-flight” photos – so sharp! What lens do you use for these and what is your shutter speed. I find I need at least 1/1600 sec using a 280mm lens for some of my in-flight shots – Canada Geese, Eagles and Seagulls – but it is still tricky to follow and hope the camera autofocus is quick enough.

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