Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: South Carolina
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

South Carolina Project

Spatial Ecology of Brown Pelicans in the South Atlantic Bight

September 2016 - December 2023


Participating Agencies

  • USGS

As a nearshore marine predator and species of conservation concern, Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus oddicentalis) in the southeastern United States constitute a valuable study population for investigating coastal ecological systems. Despite occupying a highly visible and elevated trophic position in estuarine and oceanic ecosystems, movement parameters describing habitat use patterns, foraging behaviors, and migratory corridors are undeveloped at multiple spatial and temporal scales. This study aims to address these information gaps by outfitting breeding adult pelicans with high-resolution GPS satellite transmitters, which will provide accurate locational data throughout the annual life-history cycle. We will use these data to (1) examine movement and behavior of individual pelicans during the passage of hurricanes, (2) evaluate the risk exposure of pelican colonies to ship-based oil spills within Charleston Harbor, SC, using modeling products developed by NOAA, (3) assess the usage of discarded bycatch from shrimp trawlers by adult pelicans in relation to reproductive output by pairing movement data with diet samples, stable isotope analysis, and chick corticosterone concentrations, and (4) investigate the drivers of partial migration in brown pelicans and subsequently model shifts in both migration probability and non-breeding range of brown pelicans under multiple climate change scenarios.

Research Publications Publication Date
Wilkinson, B.P., and P.G.R. Jodice. Support for the fasting endurance hypothesis of partial migration in Brown Pelicans. 2023. Ecosphere 2023;14:e4365.
| Abstract | Download
February 2023
Wilkinson, B.P., and P.G.R. Jodice. 2022. Interannual colony exchange among breeding Eastern Brown Pelicans. J. Field Ornithology. 93(1) 5. | Download April 2022
Wilkinson, B.P., Y.G. Satge, J.S. Lamb, P.G.R. Jodice. 2019. Tropical cyclones alter short-term activity patterns of coastal seabird. Movement Ecology 7:30. | Download November 2019
Wilkinson, B.P., A.R. Robuck, R. Lohmannm, H.M., Packard, P.G.R. Jodice. 2022. Urban proximity while breeding is not a predictor of perfluoroalkyl substance contamination in the eggs of brown pelicans. Science of the Total Environment 803 (2022) 150110 | Download September 2021
Presentations Presentation Date
Wilkinson, B.P., and Jodice, P.G.R. 2019. Expansion of Brown Pelican diet associated with shrimp trawling effort in South Carolina. 43rd Annual Conference of the Waterbird Society, Salisbury, Maryland. November 2019
Theses and Dissertations Publication Date
Wilkinson, B.P. 2021. Ecological outcomes of movement behavior in Brown Pelicans from the South Atlantic Bight. PhD Dissertation, Clemson University December 2021