LAYAYA Imaginarium Studios

by Jo Hughes


A Louisiana brown pelican guards her chicks in the nest. 

 This photograph was taken by Louisiana photographer and conservationist P.J. Hahn who has done amazing work in south Louisiana to bring awareness to the wildlife and the unique ecosystem  and habitats of  coastal Louisiana.  You can see more of his work and follow him on Facebook by clicking  HERE.  

Louisiana Brown Pelicans


The biggest threat to brown pelicans outside of loss of habitat is broken and discarded fishing lines in which they get caught. More than 2,000 of our pelicans die each year due to getting entangled in loose fishing lines while swimming or flying. Please properly discard your fishing lines to help protect the pelicans and other wildlife in our area and to help keep our beautiful  coastline clean!   

The brown pelican  was designated the official state bird of Louisiana in 1966. Early European settlers were impressed with the pelican's generous and nurturing attitude toward their young, and the brown pelican has been a symbol of Louisiana since that time.   The state bird of Louisiana is unique among the world's seven species of pelicans. The brown pelican is found along the 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 pelican was a favorite of the people of Louisiana because of the way it raised its young ones. Thus, the people considered it as the state bird, long before it was made official. The then Governor of State, William C.C. Claiborne, used the pelican on the official documents of the state during his term. In 1902, it was included as a part of the state seal, and in 1912, a pelican and her chicks adorned the state flag. In 1958, it was legally adopted as the state bird. On July 26, 1966, an amendment was brought about, making the brown pelican the official state bird of Louisiana.

Pesticide use caused pelicans to stop nesting along the Louisiana coast in 1961, and they completely disappeared by 1966. 

As brown pelican populations slowly recovered through the 1980s and 1990s, the birds were delisted in different areas, and were officially removed from the federal endangered species list in 2009.  Despite their recovered populations, these birds are still at grave risk from environmental pollution,  Fishing line tangles and bill and throat injuries from fishhooks are also threats to brown pelicans that we can help them avoid by practicing good nature conservation when enjoying the outdoors along our coastal areas.  Take any trash with you that you brought into the area.  Be sure to properly dispose of fishing lines and hooks while fishing.  Do not disturb nesting areas. 

Louisiana’s state bird, the brown pelican is the smallest of the world’s pelican species. With its unique behavior and classic pelican proportions,  this member of the Pelecanidae bird family is instantly recognizable and a popular bird along coastlines from North America to northern South America. 

  • Scientific Name: Pelecanus occidentalis
  • Common Name: Brown Pelican, Louisiana Pelican
  • Lifespan: 25-40 years
  • Size: 40-55 inches
  • Weight: 4-11 pounds
  • Wingspan: 75-80 inches


Pelicans are monogamous birds that work as a bonded pair to raise their young. The male pelican chooses a nesting site, and defends it while he tries to attract a mate. When a female selects a male, the nest-making process begins using twigs, reeds, bones, etc. The male fetches the material, and the female makes the nest, which takes up to a week to be completed. Adult brown pelicans typically stay with the same mating partner.

The female lays 2 – 3 eggs that are incubated for 28 to 30 days by both parents. The hatched pelicans are cared for by both the parents for about 75 days and taught to fly and catch fish.

The brown pelican is currently under protection by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

If you find an injured pelican please report it to Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries by calling 1- 800-256-2749 or by visiting the website at to find a permitted wildlife rehabilitator that serves Plaquemines Parish.

SPECIAL THANKS TO OUR LAYAYA COMMUNITY PARTNERS WHO HAVE JOINED LAYAYA IN INVESTING IN OUR COMMUNITY THROUGH THE LAYAYA STEAM MEETS GREEN PROJECT.  LAYAYA S.T.E.A.M.  Team (Science, Technology, Engineering, ART & Math) students learn real life skills through LAYAYA Studio and field sessions as they put skill and talent to work in our community to educate about the environment and  enhance areas in nature to foster conservation and responsible use and enjoyment of our natural resources.