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Louisiana's State Bird

Pelicans roosting on old peirs, basking in the sun, as the tide rolls in.
Pelicans roosting on old peirs, basking in the sun, as the tide rolls in.

The Brown Pelican:

The Brown Pelican of Louisiana
Kat Brown Photography/Katherine Brown

As you travel into the state of Louisiana, the state sign displays a friendly looking pelican greeting you as you enter. The state of Louisiana declared the brown pelican as a symbol of nurturing in 1966 and it has appeared on the state flag and state seal as it's state bird.  Sadly, due to pesticide use since 1961, this bird neared extinction by 1966 and was listed on the US Fish and Wildlife endangered species program in 1970. In an attempt to replenish them to the southern Louisiana territory young fledglings were shipped in from Florida to re-establish nesting and later in 1995 the Federal Government declared the brown pelican recovered with over 45,000 of their species that habitat the coastlines today. Along with the white pelican, the brown pelican is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

Pelican Habits On Land and Sea:

The early European settlers admired this bird because of it's nurturing habits to it's young. It is the only brown pelican among 7 pelican species and although awkward looking, they can be seen flying among flocks at very high altitudes always seemingly graceful, as they flow in and undulated line, uniformly across the sky. These pelicans can glide on wing for many hours alternately flapping their wings at 20 to 30 yards apart and  moving along the coastline a great speeds .

The brown pelican is the only one of it's species that catches it's food while flying above the waters and scooping up or troughing as the old sailors used to say, one or several fish in it's large bill. Groups of pelicans rest upon old piers as they wait for a school of fish. As it hovers above the ocean tide, it spots it's prey and then dives with precision to catch a bounty of fish, sometimes diving as much as 10 times before it is full. Once it has caught it's fill, the pelicans rest upon the piers and bask in the sun. (See Slideshow).

It is a myth that Brown Pelicans go blind from diving into the water to catch fish, causing them to starve to death because they can no longer see to hunt. Pelicans can live and fish for up to thirty years without going blind. Pelicans can go blind from pollution, abuse and disease, including chemical spills near the coast, fishing line, and avian botulism from tainted fish caught in overly warm water.

Raising The Young To Continue Growth of The Species:

Nesting usually occurs on islands with a colony of pelicans. They build their nest on just a scrape in the ground or often with brushy nests in low lying trees. Their young can consume up to 150 lbs. of fish over an 8-10 month period. With usually three hatchlings to raise this keeps their fishing a constant activity to nurture them to begin their adult lives. Imagine the work it takes to catch over 150 lbs of fish throughout a period of nine months...Not so hard for us, but what if you were a pelican? Amazing!!!