The brown pelican and the Peruvian pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis thagus, are the only true marine pelican species (Harrison 1996). The ranges of the two species rarely overlap, facilitating identification of the birds in their native habitats. However, if directly compared, the brown pelican can be distinguished by a smaller body size, duller plumage, smaller crest and an upperwing lacking the pale forewing patch characteristic of the Peruvian subspecies.The American white pelican, P. erythrorhynchos, is also quite similar to the brown pelican. However, unlike P. occidentalis, the white pelican is larger, bears white plumage in all seasons, and often inhabits inland prairies and coastal areas near freshwater (Farrand 1983). Flight Patterns & Locomotion: While in flight, the brown pelican folds its neck back in a similar fashion to a heron (Farrand 1983), staying aloft with alternating strong strokes and glides. Small flocks of individuals may fly in various formations, and often skim just above the surface of the water. Flight speeds of some individuals have been recorded up to 35 mph (Terres 1980). Birds are clumsy on land, but maneuver effectively in the water and swim well (USFWS 1995).
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