Category

Pelicans

Seabird Entanglement in Plastic

Environmental Problems, Pelicans

This week I licensed a photo of this unfortunate brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) entangled in what appears to be a grocery bag to an environmental education initiative, to illustrate the tangible effects of trash and debris on the marine environment. I originally posted about this bird in 2009. I believe the pelican speared a plastic grocery bag floating on the water, mistaking the plastic bag for prey. I would have loved to see the bird captured by wildlife rehab experts so that the bag could be removed, but the pelican was in a position that would have been difficult to approach successfully. Those parts of the bag that the pelican could grasp with its bill appear to have already been pulled away and I believe the remainder would have disintegrated in sunlight, weaked and fallen off soon. Hopefully the bird ingested no pieces of the bag, since plastic is often found clogging the digestive tracts of many species of seabirds.

A California brown pelican entangled in a plastic bag which is wrapped around its neck.  This unfortunate pelican probably became entangled in the bag by mistaking the floating plastic for food and diving on it, spearing it in such a way that the bag has lodged around the pelican's neck.  Plastic bags kill and injure untold numbers of marine animals each year, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

A California brown pelican entangled in a plastic bag which is wrapped around its neck. This unfortunate pelican probably became entangled in the bag by mistaking the floating plastic for food and diving on it, spearing it in such a way that the bag has lodged around the pelican’s neck. Plastic bags kill and injure untold numbers of marine animals each year.
Image ID: 22561
Species: Brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Distance, Perspective and the Out-Of-Focus Background

Pelicans, Wisdom

I went down to La Jolla this morning to photograph brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) with my friend Garry McCarthy. My plan was to test the sharpness of my 500 with a 2x teleconverter** so I had a pretty long setup. Unfortunately, when I arrived I found that two photographers had already proceeded to sit on the lower shelf before sunrise. “Uh-oh” I thought, knowing this would basically screw the photographic opportunities for everyone (except perhaps the two guys pushing the birds, depending on what they were after). One of the two is exceptionally talented and experienced and should know better than to plant himself right where the pelicans try to land. In my estimation (I have been watching and photographing these birds at this location for about 25 years) this would cause most of the pelicans approaching from the ocean to swerve away and choose another area on which to land. Indeed, that is what transpired over the next 45 minutes as the sun lit the bluff, the pelicans appeared on the horizon in twos and threes, approached to within 200 yards or so and then veered west to land at the bluff 150 yds away along Coast Blvd. The top of the pelican bluff is normally chock full of preening pelicans shortly after sunrise, providing nothing spooks them. It is also, in my opinion, where the best portrait and flight photographs are made and is where the pelicans seem to be most comfortable and approachable after they have settled in and begun preening. It was empty this morning. It was dismaying to realize that one of the two was a pro who appeared to have a client with him. If that was indeed the case he was actually teaching his student this behavior by example. Photographers: please don’t push the birds on the bluff here, they are on the cliffs for reasons that have nothing to do with our photography — to rest and preen — and they need some space. But I digress…

In the course of reviewing the morning’s catch, I realized I made a series of images that illustrates well how increasing background distance relative to the subject serves to throw the background increasingly out of focus (OOF), resulting in that pleasingly smooth OOF background that wildlife photographers love. There is nothing cutting edge about these static pelican portraits, but they are tack sharp and show incredible detail in the eye and in the richly-colored throat and plumage feathers that California pelicans exhibit so strikingly each winter. All three of these images were shot in the same light, with similar background conditions (moderately smooth ocean in direct sun) on the same pelican, at the same distance with the same lens (500mm w/ 1.4x teleconverter) and f-stop (f/11), within a few minutes of each other. What changes most profoundly from one image to the next in this series is how the background (ocean water) is rendered behind the bird. From one image to the next, the ratio of the background distance to the subject distance increases by about an order of magnitude. In the first image, which is shot looking somewhat down on the pelican, the background ocean water is about twice the distance of the bird. There is some detail seen in the water; at least it is recognizable as ocean ripples. In the second image, I am lower to the water but have maintained the same distance to the bird. By being lower, I have caused the background to now be more distant, let’s say 5 to 10 times as far as the bird. This leads to an image that differs from the first primarily in a softening of the background while the pelican appears nearly the same as in the first image. In the third image, cropped somewhat and with added compression of a 2x converter, I shot from my knees so that the ocean background is now just below the horizon, as far as I could make it without showing any horizon or sky, effectively at infinity. The subject is a bit closer as well. This combination results in a ratio of background to subject distance that is far greater than that in the second image, perhaps 100 or 1000. At this point, the background has essentially no discernible detail and becomes a nearly smooth wash of blue color.

This notion — that increasing the ratio of background distance to subject distance softens the background — applies in countless situations: nearby bird and distant forest at Bosque del Apache, nearby whale fluke and distant ice in polar regions, nearby bikini-clad model and distant seacliffs in Malibu, nearby bug and distant foliage in insect photography. This is a fundamental idea and there is nothing groundbreaking in my comments, but its helps me to think about such things explicitly from time to time so I can better put them to use the next time I am out shooting.

California brown pelican, showing characteristic winter plumage including red/olive throat, brown hindneck, yellow and white head colors, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican, showing characteristic winter plumage including red/olive throat, brown hindneck, yellow and white head colors.
Image ID: 26471
Species: Brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican, showing characteristic winter plumage including red/olive throat, brown hindneck, yellow and white head colors, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican, showing characteristic winter plumage including red/olive throat, brown hindneck, yellow and white head colors.
Image ID: 26470
Species: Brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican, showing characteristic winter plumage including red/olive throat, brown hindneck, yellow and white head colors, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican, showing characteristic winter plumage including red/olive throat, brown hindneck, yellow and white head colors.
Image ID: 26467
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

**As I hoped: sharpness became tack at effective f/11 and got even better at f/16, meaning I must shut down a minimum of one stop and preferably two stops from wide open for a 2x converter. Similarly, for real sharpness I have found I need to stop down one stop for a 1.4x converter. (In contrast, with my 300 f/2.8 I can shoot wide open with a 1.4x converter and usually achieve a task sharp image.) By “tack” I mean sharp enough that I would be happy to submit the image to any publisher for reproduction at any size.

I’ve compiled my thoughts on photographing California brown pelicans in La Jolla in a PDF article.

If you like these photos, you can also see lots more blog posts from past sessions photographing California brown pelicans in La Jolla.

La Jolla Pelicans

California, La Jolla, Pelicans

I was recently contacted by a fellow from outside the country who would like to visit La Jolla to photograph, among other things, California brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus), but was concerned about access to the bluff where these birds are best photographed. Since I had not been down to La Jolla for a while I decided to get out between storms and take a look. (We had a week-long rain end just 2 days ago, and another rain is due to arrive tomorrow.) I got up early this morning, looked out the window, saw the sky conditions were ideal, threw my gear in my car and got down there. There is no problem (as far as I can tell) about accessing the bluff area and photographing the pelicans as usual. There is a fence and a deck of course (both of which were built a few years ago) but no signage indicating that going beyond the fence is a problem. The signs simply warn about the dangers of falling off the bluff which, frankly, are self-evident. Special thanks to the city’s lawyers who insist on clarifying the obvious.

For general info see a Guide to Photographing Pelicans in La Jolla.

The pelicans have a ways to go until they reach peak plumage. I was able to find a few that had it all together — red and olive throat, yellow head and dark chestnut hind neck — but most birds were still in transition in some way. Here are some photos from this morning, all shot with a Canon 1Ds III and 300 f/2.8 with 1.4x converter.

California brown pelican, pre-sunrise, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican, pre-sunrise.
Image ID: 26283
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican, throwing head back to stretch its throat, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican, throwing head back to stretch its throat.
Image ID: 26287
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican in flight, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican in flight.
Image ID: 26284
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican, throwing head back to stretch its throat, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican, throwing head back to stretch its throat.
Image ID: 26285
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican in flight, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican in flight.
Image ID: 26288
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican.
Image ID: 26289
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican.
Image ID: 26290
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Western gull, pre-sunrise, Larus occidentalis, La Jolla, California

Western gull, pre-sunrise.
Image ID: 26293
Species: Western gull, Larus occidentalis
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Western gull, pre-sunrise, Larus occidentalis, La Jolla, California

Western gull, pre-sunrise.
Image ID: 26294
Species: Western gull, Larus occidentalis
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Western gull in flight, Larus occidentalis, La Jolla, California

Western gull in flight.
Image ID: 26296
Species: Western gull, Larus occidentalis
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican.
Image ID: 26297
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Western gull, pre-sunrise, Larus occidentalis, La Jolla, California

Western gull, pre-sunrise.
Image ID: 26298
Species: Western gull, Larus occidentalis
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican, throwing head back to stretch its throat, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican, throwing head back to stretch its throat.
Image ID: 26300
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican.
Image ID: 26301
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Sunrise Pelican

La Jolla, Pelicans

On a recent winter morning I found this adult California brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) displaying the species’ characteristic winter breeding plumage (note the chestnut hindneck) posing nicely as the distant sky took on the pre-sunrise purple glow. This is basically straight out of the camera. I did not adjust the white balance nor did I bump up the saturation. The pink in the distance is the sky, the blue below it is the ocean. La Jolla, California.

California brown pelican, portrait in pink-purple predawn light, rests on sandstone seabluff.  The characteristic mating plumage of the California race of brown pelican is shown, with red gular throat pouch and dark brown hindneck colors, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican, portrait in pink-purple predawn light, rests on sandstone seabluff. The characteristic mating plumage of the California race of brown pelican is shown, with red gular throat pouch and dark brown hindneck colors.
Image ID: 23646
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Here are a few more, just a few minutes after sunrise (about 7am):

Portrait of California brown pelican, with the characteristic winter mating plumage shown: red throat, yellow head and dark brown hindneck, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Portrait of California brown pelican, with the characteristic winter mating plumage shown: red throat, yellow head and dark brown hindneck.
Image ID: 23647
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California pelican in flight, soaring over the ocean.  The wingspan of this large ocean-going seabird can reach 7' from wing tip to wing tip, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California pelican in flight, soaring over the ocean. The wingspan of this large ocean-going seabird can reach 7′ from wing tip to wing tip.
Image ID: 23657
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

I never get tired of photographing these beautiful birds. See a Guide to Photographing Pelicans in La Jolla.

California Pelican with Identification Tag

Pelicans

Garry McCarthy forwarded this link to me today, about the distress that many California brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) are in this winter: 14 recovering pelicans released along Calif. coast. It appears that this year’s El Nino phenomenon is causing fish to be deeper in the ocean than normal, making it difficult for pelicans to obtain enough food. As a consequence, many are emaciated and hypothermic. The lucky ones are receiving care at various shelters along the coast, and bear identification tags when they are released. Here is one juvenile brown pelican bearing two tags (blue and gray) that I photographed yesterday. In the background are two other pelicans, both with darker hindneck plumage indicating they are breeding adults. All three of the birds are preening.

Brown pelican, juvenile with blue and gray identification bands on its legs. 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, juvenile with blue and gray identification bands on its legs. 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: 23630
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican, juvenile with blue and gray identification bands on its legs. 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, juvenile with blue and gray identification bands on its legs. 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: 23631
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

See more animal identification tag photos, photos of animals with ID tags and a Guide to Photographing Pelicans in La Jolla.

Brown Pelicans

La Jolla, Pelicans

This morning I photographed brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) in La Jolla. I really don’t need any more photos of pelicans but the setting is so beautiful that I keep returning. I’ve enjoyed these cliffs for 30 years. (We used to cliff dive off of them in college but now the lawyers and beaurocrats have made it illegal.) At this time of year the pelican’s winter plumage is in force, with deep red throat colors and dark brown hind neck on most of the adults. We moved in December, and I was gone most of the month of January, so this was my first trip down to La Jolla this winter even though it is just a few minutes down the coast. All of these were shot with Canon 1Ds Mark III, 300 f/2.8 lens, handheld or with a monopod, some with flash fill.

Brown pelican, golden sunrise light, winter adult breeding plumage, showing bright red gular pouch and dark brown hindneck plumage of breeding adults. 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, golden sunrise light, winter adult breeding plumage, showing bright red gular pouch and dark brown hindneck plumage of breeding adults. 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: 23624
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican, winter adult breeding plumage, showing bright red gular pouch and dark brown hindneck plumage of breeding adults. 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, winter adult breeding plumage, showing bright red gular pouch and dark brown hindneck plumage of breeding adults. 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: 23622
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

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: 23623
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

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: 23625
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

See more brown pelican photos as well as our Guide to Photographing Pelicans in La Jolla.

Seabird Entangled in Plastic

Environmental Problems, Pelicans

To add to my description from yesterday about the pelican entangled in a plastic bag, here is another view of the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) entangled in a plastic grocery bag. I did consider making a grab for the bird (gently of course), hoping I could restrain it long enough to pluck the bag off its neck, but the pelican’s location on the bluffs made it nearly impossible to reach.

A California brown pelican entangled in a plastic bag which is wrapped around its neck.  This unfortunate pelican probably became entangled in the bag by mistaking the floating plastic for food and diving on it, spearing it in such a way that the bag has lodged around the pelican's neck.  Plastic bags kill and injure untold numbers of marine animals each year, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

A California brown pelican entangled in a plastic bag which is wrapped around its neck. This unfortunate pelican probably became entangled in the bag by mistaking the floating plastic for food and diving on it, spearing it in such a way that the bag has lodged around the pelican’s neck. Plastic bags kill and injure untold numbers of marine animals each year.
Image ID: 22561
Species: Brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

See more brown pelican photos as well as our Guide to Photographing Pelicans in La Jolla.

Pelican Entangled in Plastic Bag

Environmental Problems, La Jolla, Pelicans

Discarded plastics and styrofoam are destroying our environment. They wreak havoc especially hard on marine wildlife. I recently came across a textbook example of how such trash can injure and kill in the form of this unfortunate brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) which is entangled in what appears to be a plastic bag. I am reasonably certain it is the lightweight sort normally used at grocery stores. I have a good idea of how this predicament came to pass. Plastic bags blow in the wind until they reach the ocean, at which point they float. As these translucent bags drift along on ocean currents, they look like food to many marine animals. Pelicans typically dive from high in the air onto the prey, piercing the water like a spear. I think this pelican saw the plastic bag as it was foraging over the ocean, thought that the bag was some form of food, made a dive into the water and speared the bag with its beak. The pressure of the pelican driving into the water pushed the bag over the head and down the neck of the pelican, were it now sits like a deadly necklace. It appears that the pelican has, during its preening, bitten away quite a bit of the bag, and hopefully will make enough further progress on the bag that it eventually breaks free and the pelican is liberated. (I have a few other photos of marine animal entanglement, including a sea lion with monofiliment fishing line wrapped around its neck.)

A California brown pelican entangled in a plastic bag which is wrapped around its neck.  This unfortunate pelican probably became entangled in the bag by mistaking the floating plastic for food and diving on it, spearing it in such a way that the bag has lodged around the pelican's neck.  Plastic bags kill and injure untold numbers of marine animals each year, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

A California brown pelican entangled in a plastic bag which is wrapped around its neck. This unfortunate pelican probably became entangled in the bag by mistaking the floating plastic for food and diving on it, spearing it in such a way that the bag has lodged around the pelican’s neck. Plastic bags kill and injure untold numbers of marine animals each year.
Image ID: 22562
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

See more brown pelican photos as well as our Guide to Photographing Pelicans in La Jolla.

Pelicans in La Jolla

California, La Jolla, Pelicans, Wildlife

I went down to La Jolla this morning to see how many brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) are there. (The California race of brown pelicans has been experiencing a mysterious malady this year, with many pelicans being found weak and disoriented far away from their usual habitat.) I had not been down there since December. The plumage colors on the birds were much more vivid than I saw on my last visit in December, but there were very few pelicans flying about. Given that flight photo opportunities were hard to come by, I concentrated on portraits.

Brown pelican preening, cleaning its feathers after foraging on the ocean, with distinctive winter breeding plumage with distinctive dark brown nape, yellow head feathers and red gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican preening, cleaning its feathers after foraging on the ocean, with distinctive winter breeding plumage with distinctive dark brown nape, yellow head feathers and red gular throat pouch.
Image ID: 22527
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican portrait, displaying winter breeding plumage with distinctive dark brown nape, yellow head feathers and red gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican portrait, displaying winter breeding plumage with distinctive dark brown nape, yellow head feathers and red gular throat pouch.
Image ID: 22529
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican portrait, displaying winter breeding plumage with distinctive dark brown nape, yellow head feathers and red gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla, California

Brown pelican portrait, displaying winter breeding plumage with distinctive dark brown nape, yellow head feathers and red gular throat pouch.
Image ID: 22532
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Western gull portrait, Larus occidentalis, La Jolla, California

Western gull portrait.
Image ID: 22542
Species: Western gull, Larus occidentalis
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

See our Guide to Photographing Pelicans in La Jolla.

See more brown pelican photos.

Open Wide

Pelicans

When I first viewed the shots from the day this was taken, I nearly tossed this one. “Sick and ugly” I thought. However, Skip said he thought it was the best shot of that day. I still think it is rather hard on the eyes, but I’ll hold on to it for it’s humor and/or behavioral potential.

When I look at this shot I am reminded of my dentist saying “open wide.” Fortunately — for you — I will not be presenting the obvious followup photo to this one, i.e., the one reminiscent of my doctor asking me to “cough.”

California brown pelican opening its large beak, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican opening its large beak.
Image ID: 22270
Species: Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA