The state bird of Louisiana is a brown pelican, scientifically known as Pelecanus occidentalis. It is the smallest in the pelican family, though still relatively large for a bird. The brown pelican was made the state bird of Louisiana in the 1960s and then abruptly suffered a dramatic decrease in numbers due to harmful chemical pollutants. Once certain pesticides were made illegal in the United States, the bird made a comeback and is no longer endangered in some areas of the country. In addition to being a state bird, the brown pelican acts as a mascot for some universities and is displayed on crests.
Brown pelicans are unique because they are the only colored pelican known to man; all other pelicans are primarily white. As is typical of pelicans, the state bird of Louisiana thrives along coastal areas. This type of bird nests in a diverse social setting with many other families of the same species. While this type of pelican is fairly large for a bird, it is also composed in a relatively compact manner.
The brown pelicans display unique behaviors not often observed in other birds located on the coast of Louisiana. For one, they are usually silent, only calling out during mating season and around potential mating patterns. The birds also plunge into the water for their prey, resurfacing to allow the water in their beaks to drain and then swallowing the fish. In addition, they are quite tame around humans, sometimes accepting fish from peoples’ hands.
There is a lot of variation in the appearance of brown pelicans. In fact, scientists reclassified a subspecies of brown pelican into an entirely new species. This species was heavier than the standard brown pelican. Not counting the now separated species, there are five subspecies classified in brown pelican species, some of which do not live in or around Louisiana. For example, one of the subspecies is usually found in California, which is on the opposite coast of the United States.
Certain pesticides, like dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and dieldrin, negatively affected the state bird of Louisiana to the point of near extinction in the area. DDT in particular made the pelican’s eggshells so thin they could not properly support a growing baby pelican. More specifically, the egg broke when the bird inside it moved about. Unable to live with underdeveloped organs, the chick died. Other species of pelicans were also threatened by the chemicals.