Posts tagged “brown pelicans

A new gallery of Brown Pelican images

Brown Pelican on a Cabo beach - © Christopher Martin-

I really like Brown Pelicans (their scientific name is Pelecanus occidentalis).  They can be acrobatic in flight but generally look very cool while gliding in the sky or low over waves.  They are inquisitive, excellent hunters and socially engaging.  They are also active early in the morning and late in the evening which allows for some great lighting opportunities when photographing them.

I have put together a gallery of a few of my favourite Brown Pelican images here (or click the image above).  In the gallery, please click on any picture to see a full size image.  Most of these images are from Los Cabos in Mexico with a couple of flight pictures from Laguna Beach, California.


Sunrise and pelican silhouettes

Sunrise Pelican - © Christopher Martin-4764

One morning on couple of Brown pelicans were fishing close to the rocks where I was perched.  This started before dawn and lasted through sunrise.  There were a few great moments to silhouette one against the early sky.

Sunrise Pelicans - © Christopher Martin-4623

The clouds changed moods swiftly through the morning.  It was a very nice moment on a beautiful stretch of the coastline a few miles east of Cabo San Lucas.

Sunrise Pelican - © Christopher Martin-4776-2


Pelican dawn


Pelican dawn - © Christopher Martin-9167-2

(If the image appears pixelated, please click the picture to open a higher resolution version)

We fled the cold and are now warming up under the sun in Cabo San Lucas.  This morning I trekked along the beach to an outcrop of rock that I thought would be lovely for sunrise.  Along the way, a squadron of Brown Pelicans flew by and were silhouetted against the early glow that preceded the sun.


Dive bombers: Pelicans fishing in Laguna

A pelican's dive - 2013 © Christopher Martin

While in California last week, every morning flights of Brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) would glide over the water off of Aliso Beach in Laguna.  A few of these would peel off and spiral up into the sky and then widen their circles while watching the water from high above.  The last time I photographed Brown pelicans was in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico a couple of years ago.  I did not have the opportunity to watch those pelicans fish in the ocean so Laguna with its dive-bombing birds was a lot of fun for me.

Flying forward - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Fish finding - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Dive prep - 2013 © Christopher Martin

When a target was found they would point directly down and plunge towards the ocean.

Diving for fish - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Most of these dives resulted in the bird completely disappearing underwater for a second or two.  More often than not a fish was caught between the chopsticks of the bird’s beak.

Resurfacing - 2013 © Christopher Martin

The seals were drawn to the same schools of fish so there were some neat moments with them close to a bird either going for a fish close-by or maybe even thieving one from the pelican.

Pelican flight and seal leap - 2013 © Christopher Martin

I love watching these pelicans glide over the water.  Often, they will skim a few inches above the surface for several hundred yards between wing beats.  They will fly alone, in pairs or larger flocks all following the same path.

Ground effects - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Ocean peloton - 2013 © Christopher Martin

They are great fliers which is most obvious during the exciting dives as they pin wheel and then dive.  When they launch out of the water, the power and skill flying that they command are on display as well.

First flap out of the water - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Into the air - 2013 © Christopher Martin

2013 © Christopher Martin

I could spend a lot of time photographing these birds.  They are graceful gliders, spectacular divers and great fishers.  They present great opportunities for the photographer – including a little hide-and-seek!

Hide-and-seek - 2013 © Christopher Martin


The Brown Pelicans of Cabo San Lucas

After settling into the hotel room, we sat out on the deck to watch the ocean.  In twos and threes, squadrons of brown pelicans swing around the rocks and glide in front of the advancing waves, climbing over the top just as the water crests and slams into the beach.

American white pelicans summer in lakes across the Canadian prairies but I had never seen their cousins, the brown pelican, in the wild before.  So, I was quite excited that these huge birds (they have wingspans up to seven feet) were residents near our vacation spot.  For the next couple of days, I went down to the water’s edge and enjoyed taking shots of them on the beach, fishing in the water and flying along the coastline.

When we finally went into town and spent the day around the marina and the beaches along the Sea of Cortés, I was surprised at the number of pelicans settled into the dockside environment.  They play the role of seagulls down there, massing on the boats and docks as well as lounging on the rock ledges along Land’s End.  There are native gulls down there as well but they do not appear to have anywhere near the same numbers as the pelicans.

At the narrow entrance to the harbour, the pelicans bob in the water waiting.  As sportfishing boats return to the marina, the birds fly up and follow just off the stern, expecting to get scraps from the fishermen.

On a water taxi from the main beach area to the marina we detoured out to Land’s End where we found clusters of pelicans throughout the rock formations vying for space with cormorants and gulls.

On our last morning before heading home, I went down to the beach early and sat down to watch some of the birds who seemed to just be lounging around, in no rush to start their day.

Great fun to be able to see these impressive birds in a wide variety of places.  I feel lucky to be able to have seen them displaying the many different ways they live out the day.