What Eats Pelicans: [Predators]

Pelicans are large water birds that belong to the Pelecanidae family. They’re easy to identify thanks to their long beak and throat pouch. This animal uses its throat pouch for catching prey as well as drinking water. The Australian Pelican is mostly white with black spots on the tail and wings. So, what eats pelicans?

Pelicans have few predators. The most common predator of the pelican is the coyote. This is the main predator but cats and humans are predators as well. Humans may hunt pelicans for their feathers and meat.

Ultimately, the pelican has few predators thanks to its large size. In its natural environment, pelican predators are few and far in between. In addition to this, Pelicans tend to inhabit areas in large flocks consisting of 100 or more birds.

This enormous bird can grow a wingspan over 3 meters. However, there are smaller species and they may have more predators. While they nest and rest in large groups, Pelicans usually hunt and eat by themselves. The only exception is when the female pelican wants to feed her chicks.

Thanks to their size and behavior, they’re hardy animals that do not make easy prey so their predators are limited.

About Coyotes

Coyotes are part of the dog family. They’re medium-sized and are family members of wolves and foxes. They have pointed ears and a slim muzzle.

Thanks to their drooping, bushy tail, coyotes look similar to collies and German Shepherds. The only difference is that these animals are ferocious. Coyotes will attack and eat almost anything.

In fact, there have been two recorded accounts of humans being killed by coyotes in the United States and Canada.

Furthermore, coyotes will attack dogs, cats, rabbits, and pelicans. Coyotes are intelligent enough to pick on animals they can beat. Therefore, they’re going to focus primarily on smaller pelicans. However, they’re opportunistic and will attack anything it can kill.

[Related Article: Do People Eat Pelican Meat?]


There is also a chance that bobcats are going to hunt pelicans. This is rare but it does happen. Since bobcats are carnivores, they only eat meat. Bobcats will eat an assortment of animals including rabbits, birds, lizards, rodents, carrion, and snakes.

They can and will eat pelicans too. They prefer eating rabbits but are opportunistic and will eat anything. In some instances, they will consume deer. Bobcats usually do not attack people but it is best to keep a safe distance from bobcats and their kittens.

When targeting pelicans, bobcats usually focus on small chicks or injured pelicans.

What Eats Brown Pelican Chicks

The aforementioned animals will eat medium-sized brown pelicans. However, it should be noted that brown pelican chicks are an easier target. When it comes to brown pelican chicks, they are often eaten by feral dogs, feral cats, and raccoons.

Reptiles such as American alligators and Mexican spiny-tailed iguanas will eat chicks as well. Red imported fire ants pose a threat to brown pelican chicks too.

If red imported fire ants manage to get into a nest, they can kill up to 60% of the hatchlings.

What Eats Brown Pelicans

Brown pelicans are prey to many predators. Adults are sometimes killed by sea lions and sharks when they’re floating on the water. When they’re approached by a predator, they’ll usually fly away alone instead of leaving in a group. I

f they have nests and eggs nearby, they will attempt to scare the predator before fleeing. Some of the most common predators of brown pelicans include humans, fish crows, raccoons, feral cats, bobcats, American alligators, red imported fire ants, sea lions, and sharks.

Brown pelicans play an important role in the ecosystem. They get parasites on their skin, feathers, and inside their bodies. However, many of these parasites do not make them sick and will not kill them.

What Do Pelicans Eat

As far as pelicans go, they primarily eat fish. Fish is the primary staple of their diet. In addition to this, they’ll eat turtles, insects, birds, mammals, and amphibians.

The size of the prey will depend on the pelican species as well as its location. Pelicans are opportunistic feeders so they will eat almost anything when possible. This includes small turtles, goslings, ducklings, and even small dogs.

If you have a chihuahua or another small dog, it is a good idea to keep it away from pelicans. You never know when they’re going to strike. These omnivores tend to take shelter in coastal waters and around arid islands. Their primary prey is fish, turtles, and crabs but they will eat other animals.

Are Brown Pelicans Endangered

Ultimately, brown pelicans are not endangered. In the United States, there is no special status for these animals. On the IUCN list, they’re listed as a “least concern”. In the 50s and 60s, their population was negatively impacted by DDT which caused their eggs to shatter before they were able to hatch.

In Louisiana, scientists worked diligently to restore their populations between 1968 and 1976. The good news is that they returned to their original population by 1990.

In addition to this, pelicans were hit hard in 2010 by the Gulf oil spill. Pelicans made up more than 50% of injuries and deaths to birds. It is unknown what the long-term impact of the oil spill will be. Nevertheless, it took a toll on brown pelicans in the impacted area.

Brian Koller

Growing up on a farm in eastern PA, I’ve grown fond of wildlife and the woods and learning about the critters and firewood and everything else in-between. I made this site to share my experiences and knowledge.

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