Louisiana State Bird

Brown Pelican

State Symbol: Louisiana State Bird: Brown Pelican

(Pelecanus occidentalis)

Adopted in 1958, Official on July 27, 1966.

This Brown Pelican has been a symbol of Louisiana since the arrival of early European settlers who were impressed with the Pelican's generous and nurturing attitude toward their young.

In 1902, the pelican was made a part of the official Louisiana seal and, 10 years later, in 1912, the pelican and her young adorned the Louisiana state flag as well. The pelican is also one of Louisiana's nicknames is "The Pelican State."

In 1958, the pelican was made the official state bird of Louisiana. This act was amended on July 26, 1966 to specifically the brown pelican, (Pelecanus occidentalis.)

Louisiana State Bird: Brown Pelican

State Symbol: Louisiana State Bird: Brown Pelican

It nests from South Carolina to Brazil. Pelicans are famous for their large bill, the lower portion of which has a pouch which may be greatly extended. Unique among the world's seven species of pelicans, the Brown Pelican is found along the ocean shores and not on inland lakes. It is the only dark pelican, and also the only one that plunges from the air into the water to catch its food.

The birds, depending almost entirely on fish for food, scoop up quantities of water into their pouches as they seize prey from salt water. As the bill is elevated the water dribbles from the mandibles, and the pouch contracts as fish are swallowed. Five pounds of fish a day is the average consumption of a one-month old pelican.

Characteristics of the Louisiana State Bird: Brown Pelican

  • Length: 41 inches Wingspan: 90 inches
  • Sexes similar
  • Huge, dark bird
  • Long bill with a pouch, dark on Atlantic/Gulf coasts; bill paler along Pacific coast, becomes yellow during breeding season
  • Flies with neck tucked
  • Plunges from great heights into water to catch fish

Adult alternate:

  • White foreneck and head with yellow crown
  • Chestnut neck and nape
  • Gray-brown body plumage with slightly darker flight feathers

Adult basic:

  • Yellowish crown
  • White head and neck
  • Gray-brown body plumage with slightly darker flight feathers


  • Dark brown overall, gradually acquiring adult plumage over three years
State Symbol: Louisiana State Bird: Brown Pelican

The use of pesticides caused the Brown Pelican, native to the area, to stop nesting along the Gulf coast in the 1960s. By 1966, the bird had disappeared in Louisiana. In 1968, Louisiana began importing fledglings from Florida in an attempt to repopulate the coastline and, in 1970, the Federal Government declared the Brown Pelican an endangered species. Protection of the Brown Pelican's habitat along with repopulation efforts resulted in the Federal Government's declaration, in 1995, that the bird had "recovered" in Louisiana.

Louisiana Statutes

The law designating the Brown Pelican as the official Louisiana state bird is Section §159 (State bird) of Louisiana Statutes, Title 49 (State administration), Section RS 49:159.

Title 49 - State administration
SECTION RS 49:159.

§159. State bird

After July 27, 1966, the official bird for the state of Louisiana shall be the Brown Pelican as it presently appears on the seal of the state of Louisiana, and its use on the seal of the state, other insignia of the state and on all official documents is hereby authorized and directed.

Acts 1958, No. 486, §1, Amended by Acts 1966, No. 457, §1.

Taxonomic Hierarchy: Brown Pelican

Kingdom: Animalia - animals
Phylum: Chordata - chordates
    Subphylum: Vertebrata - vertebrates
Class: Aves - birds
Order: Ciconiiformes - albatrosses, alcids, auks, cormorants, diurnal birds of prey, eagles, falconiforms, falcons, flamingos, grebes, gulls, hawks, herons, ibises, loons, osprey, oystercatchers, pelicans, penguins, petrels, plovers, shearwaters, shore birds, storks, totipalmate swimmers, tube-nosed swimmers
Family: Pelecanidae - pelicans
Genus: Pelecanus Linnaeus, 1758 - pelicans
Species: Pelecanus occidentalis Linnaeus, 1766 - brown pelican, Pele?cano pardo

Official State Birds
US map : Birds & Flowers
State Bird:Bird selected (by the legislature) as an emblem of a State.