Preening, Seabirds and the Uropygial Gland

By January 10, 2022January 13th, 2022Pelicans, Seabird

Many birds, including most seabirds, preen their feathers. This involves spreading a substance known as “preen oil”, secreted from the uropygial gland (preen gland) near the base of the bird’s tail, to feathers all over the body.  The preen oil protects the feathers so they can serve their flight and protective purpose effectively.  Pelicans are one of the most prodigious preening birds. When they are seen resting on land, they often preening and will do so for hours.  Here are a few of my favorite images of California brown pelicans preening, including a few that clearly show the uropygial gland.  Cheers, and thanks for looking!

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, 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.
Image ID: 30326
Species: Brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Yellow morph 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. Note the unusual yellow gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

Yellow morph 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. Note the unusual yellow gular throat pouch.
Image ID: 36681
Species: Brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican preening, the tip of the bill seen spreading preen oil on feathers, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican preening, the tip of the bill seen spreading preen oil on feathers.
Image ID: 27262
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, 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.
Image ID: 30290
Species: Brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

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: 30298
Species: Brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Brown pelican preening, cleaning its feathers after foraging on the ocean, with distinctive winter breeding plumage with distinctive dark brown nape, yellow head feathers, although this one displays a yellow (rather than the usual 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, although this one displays a yellow (rather than the usual red) gular throat pouch.
Image ID: 36683
Species: Brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

A California brown pelican preening, rubbing the back of its head and neck on 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 breeding plumage showing white hindneck and red gular throat pouch, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

A California brown pelican preening, rubbing the back of its head and neck on 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 breeding plumage showing white hindneck and red gular throat pouch.
Image ID: 37627
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, 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.
Image ID: 36844
Species: Brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

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

California brown pelican preening.
Image ID: 27268
Species: Brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA

California brown pelican portrait with breeding plumage, note the striking red throat, yellow and white head, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus, La Jolla

California brown pelican portrait with breeding plumage, note the striking red throat, yellow and white head.
Image ID: 37612
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, 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.
Image ID: 22268
Species: Brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla, California, USA