Monthly Archives

January 2007

Photos of Antelope Canyon Slot Canyon

Photo of the Day

Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon near Page, Arizona. I recently spent a day there shooting the upper canyon (there are two slot canyons, “upper” and “lower”) and had a blast. We had Antelope Canyon virtually to ourselves (a small group of five) for several hours.

A hiker admiring the striated walls and dramatic light within Antelope Canyon, a deep narrow slot canyon formed by water and wind erosion, Navajo Tribal Lands, Page, Arizona

A hiker admiring the striated walls and dramatic light within Antelope Canyon, a deep narrow slot canyon formed by water and wind erosion.
Image ID: 18009
Location: Navajo Tribal Lands, Page, Arizona, USA

Slot canyons are formed when water and wind erode a cut through a (usually sandstone) mesa, producing a very narrow passage that may be as slim as a few feet and a hundred feet or more in height. The Upper Antelope Slot Canyon is likely the world’s most well-known slot canyon, having appearing in films, television commercials and thousands of published photographs. The sandstone striations, wildly curving walls, ethereal light and tortured twisting passages that characterize Upper Antelope Canyon draw visitors and photographers year round, to the point that the canyon becomes jammed with people in the hot hot hot summertime.

Antelope Canyon, a deep narrow slot canyon formed by water and wind erosion, Navajo Tribal Lands, Page, Arizona

Antelope Canyon, a deep narrow slot canyon formed by water and wind erosion.
Image ID: 18000
Location: Navajo Tribal Lands, Page, Arizona, USA

Normally the Antelope Canyon slot canyons are dry and sandy, but flash floods form suddenly, transforming the slot canyon in minutes into a roiling, water-filled trap in rainy weather. Tragically, in 1997 a flash flood in the lower Antelope Canyon slot canyon killed eleven people of a party of twelve. Both the upper and less-visited lower slot canyons in Antelope Canyon are accessible only through permit and are located on LaChee Navajo tribal lands near Page, Arizona.

A hiker admiring the striated walls and dramatic light within Antelope Canyon, a deep narrow slot canyon formed by water and wind erosion, Navajo Tribal Lands, Page, Arizona

A hiker admiring the striated walls and dramatic light within Antelope Canyon, a deep narrow slot canyon formed by water and wind erosion.
Image ID: 17993
Location: Navajo Tribal Lands, Page, Arizona, USA

See Antelope Canyon photos, slot canyon photos

Photographing Pelicans at the La Jolla Cliffs

California, How To, Pelicans

Revised December 2010, now in PDF form: Guide to Photographing Pelicans in La Jolla.

If you like these photos, you can also see lots more blog posts from past sessions photographing California brown pelicans in La Jolla. Or, I’ve got a gallery of some keepers on my website, but most of the good ones from the last couple years I have not even gotten around to captioning and putting the web yet: California Brown Pelican photo gallery. Cheers, and thanks for looking!

A morning visit to the cliffs of La Jolla to photograph seabirds is on the list of many California photographers. Note I did not say “bird photographers”. This location is appealing because good seabird photographs are easily achieved here, to the extent that shooters like myself with modest bird photography skills can have really productive sessions and in a single visit can generate a variety of strong images to add to their collections. Bird photographers come from throughout the country to train their lenses on these special birds and the scenic coastline of La Jolla, and for good reason. I was reminded of this recently when I happened to share the cliff top with a large workshop group led by one of the world’s top bird photographers. The intensity of their efforts was apparent, as was their satisfaction with the photographic opportunities before them. I photograph primarily ocean subjects, including coastal birds. Among seabirds I find the California race of the brown pelican particularly attractive and fun to watch, so when I am in La Jolla shooting it is the pelican that gets most of my attention.

Brown pelican in flight.  The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage.
Image ID: 15371
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

The best time to visit the La Jolla cliffs is during the winter months, sunrise through mid-morning. The California brown pelican displays it most colorful plumage from late December through February, punctuated by a dramatic red throat pouch. Typically, winter mornings in San Diego offer clear skies and good sunlight conditions for photography, and if you are fortunate the wind will also be in your favor (i.e., offshore) when you are there. If you can manage to time your visit during the week you will probably share the small cliff top area with fewer people than if you visit on the weekend. As you will see, the fewer photographers occupying the limited space on the cliffs, the better. Upon arriving you may not find many pelicans on the cliffs, or none at all, or a whole crowd of them. Regardless, move slowly so that the birds that are there can become used to your presence and are not shocked into taking flight. Pelicans that are on the cliffs are there to rest, and if they are flushed they will likely settle down on another cliff and not return for quite a while, if at all.

Brown pelican.  This large seabird has a wingspan over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status, due largely to predation in the early 1900s and to decades of poor reproduction caused by DDT poisoning.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage with brown neck, yellow and white head and bright red gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican. This large seabird has a wingspan over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status, due largely to predation in the early 1900s and to decades of poor reproduction caused by DDT poisoning. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage with brown neck, yellow and white head and bright red gular throat pouch.
Image ID: 15123
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

The waxing light before sunrise can offer pleasing pastel-colored backgrounds again which to frame up gulls and pelicans. I often see photographers combining pastel-colored ambient light with a bit of strobe fill. This is a delicate balance of light and is made difficult by the need for high ISO (e.g., 400) to freeze the wings with shutter speed. However, the high ISO means you must not underexpose to avoid excessive shadow noise. Don’t be afraid to meter so that the clear dawn sky, with the sun at your back, is at +2 or more stops, decreasing gradually as the sun rises. A Better Beamer can be helpful to increase the throw (distance) of your flash, and a bracket serves to position the flash off the axis of the lens to avoid.

Direct sun will light the reach cliffs and birds about 30 minutes after sunrise proper, being blocked for a while by La Jolla’s Mount Soledad behind you. You will find that you can frame up the resting and preening pelicans that are standing on the cliff edges with attractive frontlighting – the type of lighting I prefer – by ensuring that your shadow is pointed directly at the birds. As in portrait photography, front lighting with a long lens serves to flatten and simplify the subject in a flattering way. Pelicans are contrasty, with coloration ranging from pure white and hot yellow and red to deep gray and black; side lighting is just too harsh for my taste.

A brown pelican preening, reaching with its beak to the uropygial gland (preen gland) near the base of its tail.  Preen oil from the uropygial gland is spread by the pelican's beak and back of its head to all other feathers on the pelican, helping to keep them water resistant and dry.  Adult winter non-breeding plumage showing white hindneck and red gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

A brown pelican preening, reaching with its beak to the uropygial gland (preen gland) near the base of its tail. Preen oil from the uropygial gland is spread by the pelican’s beak and back of its head to all other feathers on the pelican, helping to keep them water resistant and dry. Adult winter non-breeding plumage showing white hindneck and red gular throat pouch.
Image ID: 18209
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Framing individual birds against a distant, out of focus, pleasing blue or green ocean backdrop is dead easy. The key to creating a defocused background is to place a relatively uncomplicated background at a great distance relative to the subject. In La Jolla the pelicans are 15-50′ (5-15m) from you while the background cliffs, waves or blue ocean range from a hundred yards to a mile away or more. With distance ratios like that it is possible to stop down to f/8 or f/11 to hold depth of field on the subject with a 500mm lens and still achieve a defocused background, making the subject’s edges appear especially sharp. Take advantage of soft background and leave negative space in some of your vertical compositions to allow for that cover shot that will allow you to retire early. Before the sun climbs too high it is possible to put a catchlight from the sun in your pelican’s eye, or to maximize the visibility of water droplets on a pelican that has just returned from the water. To do this, position your subject so that the sun is directly behind you and low. If the shadow of your lens lies just to the side of your subject, you are in the right spot.

Focus on the eye! I try to put critical focus on my subject’s eye in all of my wildlife photographs, and pelicans are no exception. The eye of an animal, especially in a portrait composition, is an anchor for the viewer. Invariably and naturally, when first viewing a photograph a viewer’s glance is immediately drawn to the subject’s eye. For this reason the eye must be tack sharp and well-placed. Once that is achieved, use what depth of field is available (given the available light and choice of shutter speed and ISO) to try for sharp chest, head and neck details, knowing that depth of field with super-telephotos is notoriously small and that some near or far detail may be a bit soft.

Brown pelican in flight.  The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage.
Image ID: 15122
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

For best flight shots I hope for a clear horizon and offshore morning breezes, so that the pelicans approach the cliffs upwind and are frontlit as they fly directly toward the lens. In this way their faces and undersides are illuminated as they spread those huge wings to soar and land. It is tempting to shoot frames as they fly past, and I have certainly shot my share of those. But back at the editing table I find that in nearly every case side lighting produces an image that is too harsh and gets tossed. If you do not have offshores don’t despair; often upon approach to the cliffs the pelicans will wheel and make a second pass before deciding where to set down, especially if the cliff is already crowded with pelicans or people. Take advantage of these loops to obtain the angle you need.

When shooting pelicans in flight in La Jolla the background will quickly change from bright sky to deep blue ocean water, whitewash and waves to brown sandstone cliffs. These situations will fool your light meter and, if you are shooting in one of the automatic modes, will often produce blown head and wing highlights or an underexposed bird. Metering with a handheld incident meter, or using your in-camera spot meter on a neutral area such as a grey guana-covered rock, is recommended. In a pinch I will set my exposure so that the palm of my (caucasian) hand is at +1.

California brown pelican spreads its wings wide as it slows before landing on seacliffs, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican spreads its wings wide as it slows before landing on seacliffs.
Image ID: 18228
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Pelicans brake dramatically as they land, comically so. If you are standing back on the top of the cliffs and hoping to get a shot of a pelican with wings spread wide coming straight at you, you may want to step forward a bit and aim for the lower cliffs. I find the vantage point shooting down at the lower cliffs works better, since the pelicans landing there are rising up off the water at an angle that takes them straight at you and with undersides well illuminated. Also, compared to the pelicans that just suddenly appear from below the edge of the top cliffs, those landing on the lower cliffs are easier to track and focus as they approach over the water.

Brown pelican in flight.  The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. Long exposure shows motion as a blur. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage with dark brown hindneck and bright red gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. Long exposure shows motion as a blur. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage with dark brown hindneck and bright red gular throat pouch.
Image ID: 15134
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

I have had a few mornings where the light is terrible. Overcast, spotty, drab. This is more typical of San Diego coastal mornings in May, June and July but it does happen in winter too. Don’t let it spoil your shooting. Just drop the ISO, set your aperature to f/16 or f/22 and shoot pan-blurs. Hopefully you will get a few where the head of the pelican is sharp and the wings and ocean background are blurry. The keeper rate is low but the results can be worth it.

Brown pelican head throw.  During a bill throw, the pelican arches its neck back, lifting its large bill upward and stretching its throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican head throw. During a bill throw, the pelican arches its neck back, lifting its large bill upward and stretching its throat pouch.
Image ID: 15124
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Head throws, where your pelican stretches its throat and lifts it bill straight up in the air, are the most distinctive and amusing behaviors among these birds. It seems that most of the photographers I’ve talked with at the cliffs are keen to get a good shot of a pelican’s head throw. It’s not too hard, you’ll get it if you are willing to put in some time and stand ready. Any pelican that is standing and has its eyes open is a good candidate to throw its head back. I’ve seen a single individual do it five or six times in the course of just a few minutes. Head throws are as contagious as sneezes among a group of pelicans. If you see one do it be ready for his neighbor to do it too. Take a few test frames and check your histograms for blinkies ahead of time, so that it is simply a matter of framing it up when you see the pelican’s head drop down and back first, before being swung straight up in the air. Heck, with today’s ultra-fast motor drives and focusing systems, the camera practically takes the photo for you. Think about the right focal length for where you are standing. You’ll need to be wide enough to contain about twice the height of a standing pelican to include the entire bird when it is tossing its bill up.

Brown pelican head throw.  During a bill throw, the pelican arches its neck back, lifting its large bill upward and stretching its throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican head throw. During a bill throw, the pelican arches its neck back, lifting its large bill upward and stretching its throat pouch.
Image ID: 18044
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican, showing bright red gular pouch and breeding plumage with brown neck.  This large seabird has a wingspan over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status, due largely to predation in the early 1900s and to decades of poor reproduction caused by DDT poisoning, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican, showing bright red gular pouch and breeding plumage with brown neck. This large seabird has a wingspan over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status, due largely to predation in the early 1900s and to decades of poor reproduction caused by DDT poisoning.
Image ID: 15153
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Don’t forget to shoot some details of the birds, but don’t approach them so closely that you spook them off to do so …

California brown pelicans fly in formation, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelicans fly in formation.
Image ID: 18232
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelicans rest and preen on seacliffs above the ocean.   In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage with brown neck, yellow and white head and bright red-orange gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelicans rest and preen on seacliffs above the ocean. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage with brown neck, yellow and white head and bright red-orange gular throat pouch.
Image ID: 18261
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

… and get some frames of the groups, if you can line them up.

Brown pelican in flight.  The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican in flight. The wingspan of the brown pelican is over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage.
Image ID: 15125
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

The cliffs are increasingly crowded with photographers (and visitors) each winter. When I would visit the cliffs after swimming the cove in the 80’s, I never saw another photographer there. In the 90’s there would be a few, and now it seems photographers, alone or in groups, are there most weekend mornings December through March. This is probably a good thing, as these birds are deserving of our appreciation, and for the most part the behavior of photographers alongside whom I have shot at the cliffs has been exemplary and respectful of these special birds. However, if the birds are disturbed and fly off, the photo opportunities for everyone are lessened (not to mention the the disruption that the birds experience). I’ve seen a few people flush the entire flock, only to watch as all the departing birds settled on another cliff for the rest of the morning. If you flush the flock you are certain to raise the ire of the others sharing the cliff with you!

You’ll want the longest lens you own for portraits and head throws. Some prefer to use shorter focal lengths and zooms (70-200, 100-400) for flight shots. Most of the better photos I have made the last two years at the cliffs were taken with a Canon 1Ds Mark II and 500 f/4 IS, on a Gitzo tripod with a Wimberley II head. The perspective-crunching nature of a 500mm or 600mm, combined with the defocused background, is a combination I just love. A 70-200 f/2.8 or 300 f/2.8 with a 1DIIN is a good combo too, but I just don’t want to give up the pixels of the 1DsII or the crazy sharpness of the Canon 500 f/4. Keep in mind that if there are onshore breezes and surf, you may get some spray on your gear even while you are well atop the cliffs. Consider bringing a towel in your hip sack just in case. Since I often shoot around surf I carry a full-length Aquatech spray cover for my camera and lens.

Had enough after a few hours at the cliffs? I should mention that in addition to brown pelicans I have photographed gray whales, several species of cormorant, gull and tern, at least one osprey and a few great blue herons at the La Jolla cliffs. If you have seen enough of them too and you are ready to move on, there are a few fun places nearby you might want to consider. If there are waves, walking down the hill to the large grass park at La Jolla Cove may give you opportunities to shoot pelicans at water level flying above and in front of the waves, a composition that would be difficult to line up at the cliffs. You’ll want to shoot from the sidewalk at the edge of the park, on the low bluff just above the waves. Children’s Pool (a pocket cove with seawall) is only a half mile south, just a two-minute drive, and your longer lens is perfect to photograph the harbor seals there. Walk down to the sand and shoot low for the most appealing perspective of the seals. The sun reaches the seals at Children’s Pool later in the morning than it does the pelicans at the cliffs, so you can generally shoot both spots in good light in winter months. To the north, close enough that you can see both from the cliffs, lie Stephen Birch SIO Aquarium (10 minutes) and Torrey Pines State Reserve (20 minutes).

A few handy links:

La Jolla Shores web cam (cliffs visible in the distance), courtesy Beach and Tennis Club

Google map showing cliffs, Prospect Blvd. and Coast Blvd.

Scripps Pier web cam (not very helpful)

Surfline.com’s Scripps Pier surf cam, including tides, sunrise/set — to see what the skies are like at the cliffs.

Mesa Arch Photo

Canyonlands, National Parks, Utah

Mesa Arch stands at the edge of Island in the Sky mesa in Canyonlands National Park. It juts out and over a 600-foot drop into Buck Canyon. While small by Utah standards, Mesa Arch lies in a dramatic setting and easy access make it a destination for most visitors to the park. At sunrise, if the horizon is clear, light reflecting off the walls below illuminate the underside of Mesa Arch, setting it afire with a rich golden glow.

Mesa Arch spans 90 feet and stands at the edge of a mesa precipice thousands of feet above the Colorado River gorge. For a few moments at sunrise the underside of the arch glows dramatically red and orange, Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Mesa Arch spans 90 feet and stands at the edge of a mesa precipice thousands of feet above the Colorado River gorge. For a few moments at sunrise the underside of the arch glows dramatically red and orange.
Image ID: 18037
Location: Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

More Mesa Arch photos.

Pelican Portrait

California, Pelicans, Photo of the Day, Wildlife

See our Guide to Photographing Pelicans in La Jolla.

Another stop at the California brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) in La Jolla before running an errand in San Diego. This time testing the sharpness of a 500mm f/4 and a 2x teleconverter. Here is a snap.

Brown pelican, winter adult breeding plumage.   In winter months, breeding pelicans assume a dramatic plumage with brown neck, yellow and white head and bright red gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican, winter adult breeding plumage. In winter months, breeding pelicans assume a dramatic plumage with brown neck, yellow and white head and bright red gular throat pouch.
Image ID: 18122
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

See: brown pelican photos.

Mesa Arch Sunrise Photo

Canyonlands, National Parks, Utah

Mesa Arch is a spectacular natural sandstone arch at the edge of the Island-in-the-Sky region of Canyonlands National Park. It literally juts up and out from the mesa, hanging over the chasm with an unbroken drop many hundreds of feet below. For a few minutes at sunrise, if the horizon is clear of clouds, the underside of Mesa Arch glows a warm, deep red. I had Mesa Arch to myself one morning last week. It was -4°F, clear blue sky, new snow and not a speck of wind.

Mesa Arch, Utah.  An exuberant hiker greets the dawning sun from atop Mesa Arch. Yup, that's me, Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park

Mesa Arch, Utah. An exuberant hiker greets the dawning sun from atop Mesa Arch. Yup, that’s me.
Image ID: 18036
Location: Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

The image above is a self-portrait, one that is not for the faint of heart. A simple slip or stumble while atop Mesa Arch has serious consequences. This risky maneuver should only be attempted by qualified, registered, insured, well-trained stunt photographers under highly controlled circumstances (i.e., no Moab brewery the night before). Do not attempt this at home.

Mesa Arch spans 90 feet and stands at the edge of a mesa precipice thousands of feet above the Colorado River gorge. For a few moments at sunrise the underside of the arch glows dramatically red and orange, Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Mesa Arch spans 90 feet and stands at the edge of a mesa precipice thousands of feet above the Colorado River gorge. For a few moments at sunrise the underside of the arch glows dramatically red and orange.
Image ID: 18037
Location: Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA

See Mesa Arch photos and Canyonlands National Park photos.

California Brown Pelican Photo

California, Pelicans, Photo of the Day, Wildlife

See our Guide to Photographing Pelicans in La Jolla.

I went down to one of my favorite spots in La Jolla yesterday morning, one I have visited each winter since the late ’80s, to test out a lens combination on the California brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) that rest along the cliffs. Here are a few snaps.

Brown pelican head throw.  During a bill throw, the pelican arches its neck back, lifting its large bill upward and stretching its throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican head throw. During a bill throw, the pelican arches its neck back, lifting its large bill upward and stretching its throat pouch.
Image ID: 18044
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

A brown pelican preening, reaching with its beak to the uropygial gland (preen gland) near the base of its tail.  Preen oil from the uropygial gland is spread by the pelican's beak and back of its head to all other feathers on the pelican, helping to keep them water resistant and dry. Adult winter non-breeding plumage showing white hindneck and red gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

A brown pelican preening, reaching with its beak to the uropygial gland (preen gland) near the base of its tail. Preen oil from the uropygial gland is spread by the pelican’s beak and back of its head to all other feathers on the pelican, helping to keep them water resistant and dry. Adult winter non-breeding plumage showing white hindneck and red gular throat pouch.
Image ID: 18045
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelicans, breeding plumage (left) and non-breeding adult (right), sunrise.  This large seabird has a wingspan over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status, due largely to predation in the early 1900s and to decades of poor reproduction caused by DDT poisoning.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage with brown neck, yellow and white head and bright red gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelicans, breeding plumage (left) and non-breeding adult (right), sunrise. This large seabird has a wingspan over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status, due largely to predation in the early 1900s and to decades of poor reproduction caused by DDT poisoning. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage with brown neck, yellow and white head and bright red gular throat pouch.
Image ID: 18047
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican.  This large seabird has a wingspan over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status, due largely to predation in the early 1900s and to decades of poor reproduction caused by DDT poisoning.  In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage with brown neck, yellow and white head and bright red gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican. This large seabird has a wingspan over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status, due largely to predation in the early 1900s and to decades of poor reproduction caused by DDT poisoning. In winter months, breeding adults assume a dramatic plumage with brown neck, yellow and white head and bright red gular throat pouch.
Image ID: 18043
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican, adult winter non-breeding plumage showing white hindneck and red gular throat pouch..  This large seabird has a wingspan over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status, due largely to predation in the early 1900s and to decades of poor reproduction caused by DDT poisoning, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Brown pelican, adult winter non-breeding plumage showing white hindneck and red gular throat pouch.. This large seabird has a wingspan over 7 feet wide. The California race of the brown pelican holds endangered species status, due largely to predation in the early 1900s and to decades of poor reproduction caused by DDT poisoning.
Image ID: 18046
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

See: brown pelican photos.