Brown Pelican

A master of the skies and a superb fisherman


One bird which you will see many times on your Galapagos cruise is the majestic Brown Pelican, the smallest of all pelican species. This bird is widespread around all the Galapagos islands and can also be seen as far away as the coast of America.

The Brown Pelican can be seen flying gracefully over the water's surface and also plunge-diving into the sea for food before they head back to their nests in the mangrove lagoons.

This Brown Pelican technique of plunge-diving allows them to catch a beak full of fish and water. They then filter the water out and feast on the small fish and crustaceans that remain.

Brown Pelicans are known to fly very near to the water’s surface. This uses an aerodynamic principle called “ground effect”. The air trapped between their wings and the water increases their gliding efficiency and therefore saves energy.

These pelicans breed all year round in the Galapagos, and the female lays two to three eggs which are incubated by both parents. The parents work very closely together and share not only the incubation of their young but also the nurturing and feeding.

It is during this breeding time that you can see the distinctively rich, dark maroon-brown colours on their necks highlighted by a brilliant light gold wash on their heads. Quite a spectacular sight! Your Galapatours naturalist guide will help you to discover these delightful creatures during your Galapagos cruise.

Photos of the Brown Pelican

Fast Facts about the Brown Pelican

  • Commonly seen by boats and docks, particularly at Santa Cruz's Fisherman's dock.
  • Breeds in small colonies or all year round
  • Both male and female share parenting duties
  • They are masters of gliding, using "ground effect" close to the water's surface

Where can the Brown Pelican be seen?

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All cruises to visit the Brown Pelican