Pelecanus occidentalis carolinensis, Pelecanus occidentalis californicus

Status: Rare casual summer visitor. Accidental in winter.

Documentation: Photograph: 12 May 1991, near Fremont, Dodge Co (Grenon 1991).

Taxonomy: This species consists of five subspecies (Gill and Donsker 2017), two in South America, one in the Caribbean (occidentalis), and two in North America, carolinensis along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts and californicus along the Pacific Coast.   

Both North American subspecies have been reported in Nebraska (see Summer, Winter).

Summer: There are some 19 reports over a period of almost 160 years, beginning with one in fall 1819 or spring 1820 in Washington Co (Swenk 1934), and J.J. Audubon’s record of one in 1842 (Audubon and Coues 1960).  Most sightings since 1912 have been in Apr-Jul.

The eight accepted records are:

spring 1912 Carter Lake, Omaha, a specimen #254 in collection of the Northwest School of Taxidermy, Omaha, and diagnostic measurements published; specimen now lost (Bray et al 1986;      Swenk 1934)

12 May 1991 west of Fremont, Dodge Co (cited above)

15-17 May 2009 immature Lakes North and Babcock, Platte Co (Brogie 2009)

21-23 May 1991 Missouri River, Dakota Co (Grenon 1991)

last week Apr-8 May 1992 DeSoto NWR, Washington Co (Green 1992; Morris 1992)

20 Jun-10 Jul 2004 photographed Harlan Co Reservoir, Harlan Co (Brogie 2005)

27 Jun-3 Jul 2002 “adult Atlantic race” [carolinensis] photographed Gavin’s Point Dam, Cedar Co and in flight Lewis and Clark Lake, Cedar Co (Brogie 2003)

Oct 19-23, 2008 juvenile photographed Harlan Co Reservoir (Brogie 2009).

The additional 11 reports, some very old, and most likely correct, are 10 Apr 1955 Keya Paha Co, 18 Apr 1955 Cherry Co, 18 on May 1930 North Platte, Lincoln Co (Tout 1947), 6 May 1952 Alexandria, Thayer Co, 15 on 9 May 1937 North Platte (Tout 1947), 28 May 1977 near Milburn, Custer Co (Kieborz 1978), two killed at Lincoln, Lancaster Co 10 Jul 1872 (Swenk 1934), and a male collected at St Paul, Howard Co 10 Oct 1885 and placed at the University of Iowa Museum (Swenk 1934). This specimen cannot now be located (Bray et al 1986). Undated old reports are 1842 (Audubon and Coues 1960), fall 1819 or spring 1820 Washington Co (Swenk 1934), spring early 1890s Omaha (Swenk 1934).

Winter: An amazing record was the presence of an adult at the Sutherland Reservoir cooling pond, Lincoln Co (photo, above), with as many as 24 American White Pelicans 26 Dec 2014-15 Mar 2015 (Brogie 2016). It was considered to be of the Pacific Coast subspecies californicus based on its reddish proximal gular pouch coloration (Brogie 2015); there is some evidence for occurrence of Pacific Coast birds on the Gulf Coast; Pacific Coast birds generally migrate greater distances than those on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts (Shields 2020).


NWR: National Wildlife Refuge

Literature Cited

Audubon, M.R., and E. Coues. 1960. Audubon and his journals. Vols 1 and 2. Dover Publications Reprint. New York, USA.

Bray, T.E., B.K. Padelford, and W.R. Silcock. 1986. The birds of Nebraska: A critically evaluated list. Published by the authors, Bellevue, Nebraska, USA.

Brogie, M.A. 2003. 2002 (14th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 71: 136-142.

Brogie, M.A. 2005. 2004 (16th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 73: 78-84.

Brogie, M.A. 2009. 2009 (21st) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 77: 160-168.

Brogie, M.A. 2015. 2014 (26th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 83: 125-138.

Brogie, M.A. 2016. 2015 (27th) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 84: 138-150.

Gill, F., and D. Donsker (Eds). 2017. IOC World Bird List (v 7.3), accessed 30 January 2018.

Green, R.C. 1992. Brown Pelican in Nebraska. NBR 60: 69.

Grenon, A.G. 1991. 1991 (Fourth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 59: 150-155.

Kieborz, E.M. 1978. Brown Pelican. NBR 46: 16.

Morris, R. 1992. Brown Pelican in Nebraska. NBR 60: 69.

Shields, M. 2020. Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (A. F. Poole, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

Swenk, M.H. 1934. A Brief Synopsis of the Birds of Nebraska. III. Totipalmate Swimmers-Pelicans. NBR 2: 128-136.

Tout, W. 1947. Lincoln County birds. Published by the author, North Platte, Nebraska, USA.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen. 2020. Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis). In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 28 Mar 2020