The brown pelican is the smallest pelican, but it's not a small bird. The brown pelican weighs from six to twelve pounds. An average pelican's body measures about four feet long and has a wingspan of seven to eight feet. The brown pelican has a short tail and short legs with webbed feet. Its body is brown and gray, and its head is white. It lives along the U.S. shores of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans and the Gulf of Mexico.
The brown pelican has a long, straight bill. Attached to its bill is a large pouch of skin. The pouch can hold more than two gallons of fish and water, which is two to three times as much as the pelican's stomach can hold. The brown pelican uses its bill and pouch just like a fish net. The brown pelican swoops down from the sky into the water and scoops up fish and water into the pouch with its bill. The pouch isn't used to carry fish. Once it has the fish in its bill, the brown pelican drains the water and swallows the fish. Sometimes, while the brown pelican is draining the water out of its bill, gulls try to snatch the fish right out of the pelican's pouch. Some gulls even sit on top of the brown pelican's head and wait for just the right moment to steal some fish.