During winter months California brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) adopt striking plumage. The gular pouch (throat) of adults transitions from olive green to bright red. Breeding adults are characterized primarily by a dark brown hindneck, and may also show a yellow patch at the base of the foreneck. Nonbreeding adults retain the white hindneck but, since they also may display a red gular pouch, they are sometimes mistaken for breeders. Head coloration in adults can be white, yellow or a mix of the two, and becomes speckled during molt or chick-feeding.
Brown pelican preening, showing bright red gular pouch and dark brown hindneck plumage of breeding adults. After wiping its long beak on the uropygial gland near the base of its tail, the pelican spreads the preen oil on feathers about its body, helping to keep them water resistant, an important protection for a bird that spends much of its life diving in the ocean for prey. La Jolla, California, USA
Species: Brown Pelican
, Pelecanus occidentalis
, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus
Location: La Jolla
Image ID: 18380
Format: Digital 2:3
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