What is the State Bird of Louisiana? (And Why?)

Louisiana is located in the deep south of the United States. It is the 25th most populous state and the 19th smallest state by area. Louisiana has a mixture of wetlands, salt domes and river valleys, that attract a wide range of wildlife. The state animal for Louisiana is the Black Bear, but what is the state bird?

The state of Louisiana chose the Brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) as the state bird in 1966. The bird nests from South Carolina to Brazil, but Louisiana remains the only state to choose this majestic bird as its state symbol.

The state bird of Louisiana, the Brown Pelican.

The state bird of Louisiana, the Brown Pelican.

Why is the Brown pelican the state bird for Louisiana?

The people of Louisiana named this bird their favorite bird because of the way it raises its young. Both parents care for and feed their young, sharing parenting duties. While the baby birds can leave the nest and socialize at five weeks, the family continues to dine together as the young birds age, with parents feeding the young even after they leave the bird colony. This sense of family togetherness appealed to those on the bayou.

When did the Brown pelican become the state bird for Louisiana?

The State of Louisiana legislature adopted the Brown pelican as the state bird on July 27, 1966. Louisiana doesn’t share its state bird with any other state.

Brown Pelican taking off from the water

Brown Pelican taking off from the water

What does the state bird of Louisiana look like?

You can’t miss the Brown pelican when traveling around the state of Louisiana. These gray-brown birds with white necks and yellow heads populate the waterways of the state. Their colorful heads stand out on the waterways of Louisiana. When breeding time rolls around, these birds the back and neck feathers turn a dark reddish-brown. This differs from immature birds whose feathers remain gray-brown in those areas with a white breast and stomach.

These large seabirds weigh a bit more than your typical avian – between about 6.9 pounds. They grow to 54 inches in length. They have a wingspan of between 6.5 feet and 7.5 feet. Although that may sound massive, they are the smallest of seven pelican species.

Brown Pelican in flight

Brown Pelican in flight

How do these birds behave?

The pelican enjoys all three oceanic coasts of the US. It lives along the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf coasts. In Louisiana, this bird prefers living in lagoons, waterfronts, and coastal beaches. It prefers areas with lots of sand and rocky cliffs. This avian species enjoys its uniqueness. No similar species exists.

This fish could be the hero of fishermen since that is how it catches its food. The pelican doesn’t need a rod and reel, though, since it can dive effortlessly. Like other seabirds, it uses the rocky precipices as tools. It loves crustaceans and drops them onto the rocks to break them open, revealing their meat.

As different as it is from other birds, it still builds nests. They consist largely of reeds, straw, sticks, grasses, and feathers. The bird finds a tree or builds a ground nest. If it chooses a ground nest, it digs a shallow scrape in which it builds a liner out of the above-mentioned materials, focusing on feathers, though. It constructs a dirt rim around the nest of four to six inches in height.

These birds typically remain silent except during nesting. They utter low grunts while nesting.

A Brown Pelican pruning its feathers

A Brown Pelican pruning its feathers

Do brown pelicans form communities?

The gregarious Brown pelican lives in flocks and nests in colonies. These birds fly in flocks. They form serial monogamous relationships. This means that they form a new relationship during each mating season. During the mating season, they remain with that partner, rearing the young together.

Generally speaking, the female lays between two and four eggs.

After the five weeks it takes for the baby birds to ready themselves to leave the nest, they socialize with the rest of the flock. Their parents can recognize them from the other pelicans, though, and the family remains in touch throughout the life of the chicks. The baby birds may stay in the nest for up to nine weeks before they move out on their own.

Unlike other bird species, pelicans do not mature quickly. Although they leave the nest to socialize, it takes eight to 10 months for them to hunt and feed themselves. During that time, their parents hunt for them, dining on the food, then regurgitating it in the nest for the chicks to eat. The baby birds can’t yet digest raw food, so their parents take care of that for them. During this time, the baby birds dine on about 150 pounds of regurgitated fish.

The young pelicans reach sexual maturity between the ages of three and five years. At this time, they also develop their adult plumage. At this time, they meet their first mate and build a nest together, making baby pelicans of their own.

Brown Pelican diving for food

Brown Pelican diving for food

What do brown pelicans eat?

Greater Brown pelican dine on rough fish. You might think they would enjoy eating out at a seafood restaurant since these adorable birds eat an all-fish diet. For hors d’oeuvres, the pelican enjoys sardines and anchovies. They also favor prawns. For their entrees, they prefer menhaden, herring, pigfish, sheepshead, mullet, topminnows, grass minnows, and silversides.

While the pelican uses its oversized bill to catch fish, it doesn’t store them there. Its jaw design lets it tip its head with a fish in its mouth, draining out the water, so only the fish remains. Its bill can hold about three gallons of water.

They do drink water, but only separate from their food. Because they live in coastal environments that only contain salt water, which dehydrates, they’re born with built-in desalination filters. Other seabirds also have this feature, including the albatross, gull, and penguin. Salt ducts and glands connected to their bills ensure that they do not take in the excess salt. These birds can consume about 1/10th of their body mass in seawater without harm. That would prove lethal to a human. Within three hours, though, the pelican eliminates the salt from its body.

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