Barbados National Bird: The Brown Pelican

The Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) is a large seabird native to the Americas, and it holds the distinguished title of the Barbados National Bird. This majestic bird is a symbol of the island’s rich biodiversity and natural beauty. In this article, we will explore the fascinating characteristics of the Brown Pelican and answer some frequently asked questions.

Barbados National Bird Characteristics

The Brown Pelican is a large, stocky bird with a wingspan of up to 8 feet (2.4 meters). Adult Brown Pelicans have a dark brown body, a white neck, and a yellow head. Their most distinctive feature is their large, pouched bill, which they use to scoop up fish from the water. Brown Pelicans are strong swimmers and powerful fliers, often seen gliding effortlessly above the ocean’s surface.

Habitat and Distribution

Brown Pelicans are found along the coasts of North, Central, and South America, as well as the Caribbean islands, including Barbados. They prefer shallow coastal waters, estuaries, and lagoons, where they can find an abundance of fish to feed on. In Barbados, Brown Pelicans are commonly seen in the coastal areas and can be spotted nesting on small offshore islets.

Diet and Feeding Behavior of Pelican

The primary diet of Brown Pelicans consists of fish, particularly those found in shallow waters. They have a unique feeding behavior called plunge diving, where they spot their prey from the air, fold their wings, and dive headfirst into the water to catch fish in their expandable throat pouch. After capturing the fish, they drain the water from their pouch and swallow the fish whole.

Reproduction and Nesting

Brown Pelicans are monogamous and form long-lasting pair bonds. The breeding season varies depending on their location, but in Barbados, it usually occurs between December and April. They build large nests made of sticks, grass, and seaweed on the ground or in trees. The female lays two to three eggs, which both parents incubate for about 30 days. After hatching, the chicks are cared for by both parents until they fledge at around 11 to 12 weeks of age.

Conservation Status of Barbados National Bird

The Brown Pelican is currently listed as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, populations have faced threats in the past, such as habitat loss, pollution, and the use of pesticides like DDT. Conservation efforts, including the banning of DDT, have helped the species recover in many areas.


1. Why is the Brown Pelican the national bird of Barbados?

The Brown Pelican represents the natural beauty and rich biodiversity of Barbados. Its unique feeding behavior and presence along the island’s coastlines make it an iconic symbol for the country.

2. How long do Brown Pelicans live?

Brown Pelicans have a lifespan of 15 to 25 years in the wild.

3. Are Brown Pelicans social birds?

Yes, Brown Pelicans are social birds that often form large flocks when roosting, feeding, or migrating.

4. Do Brown Pelicans have any predators?

Adult Brown Pelicans have few natural predators, but their eggs and chicks can fall prey to gulls, crows, and raccoons.


The Brown Pelican is a remarkable seabird that plays a vital role in the coastal ecosystems of Barbados. As the national bird, it serves as a symbol of the island’s commitment to preserving its natural heritage and promoting conservation efforts. By learning about and appreciating the Brown Pelican, we can help ensure its continued presence in the beautiful waters of Barbados.

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