Any of about eight species constituting the genus Pelecanus (family Pelecanidae), white or brown birds distinguished by a large, elastic throat pouch. Some species are 70 in. (180 cm) long, have a wingspan of 10 ft (3 m), and weigh up to 30 lbs (13 kg). Most species drive fish into shallow water and, using the pouch as a dip net, scoop them up and immediately swallow them. Pelicans inhabit freshwaters and seacoasts in many parts of the world; they breed in colonies on islands, laying one to four eggs in a stick nest. Chicks thrust their bills down the parent's gullet to obtain regurgitated food.
Brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis).—Norman Tomalin/Bruce Coleman Inc.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
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