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

South Carolina Project

Eastern Brown Pelicans: Dispersal, Seasonal Movements and Monitoring of PAHs and Contaminants in the Northern Gulf of Mexico

June 2012 - November 2019


Participating Agencies

An Eastern brown pelican returns to its nest on Raccoon Island, Louisiana.

The Gulf of Mexico (GOM) contains a high density of oil and gas infrastructure and coastal development. It also has a rich assemblage of nearshore and pelagic seabirds. The region is of year-round importance to seabirds, including local breeding populations and breeders from distant locations that occur within the Gulf throughout the year. Because of its distribution patterns, behavior, and known sensitivity to chemical and oil contaminants exposure, the Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) is a good indicator of species-level impacts from interactions with coastal and marine development. The species is widespread throughout the northern GOM and common during all phases of the annual cycle. Despite the species’ long history as a focus for conservation and restoration efforts, much of the information required to understand pelican population dynamics and habitat requirements (i.e., adult and fledgling mortality, dispersal, site fidelity, diet composition, foraging behavior, migration patterns, and nonbreeding habitat use) remains unknown or is poorly understood.

In this study, we used several unique research avenues to address questions regarding movement, habitat use, physiology, and reproductive ecology of brown pelicans. Our research encompassed six principal objectives: (1) assessing reproductive ecology; (2) assessing baseline habitat use by the species in this region, particularly individual and regional variability; (3) assessing baseline health and exposure to contaminants in this region, particularly individual and regional variability; (4) predicting overlap of pelicans with anthropogenic risk factors; (5) understanding pathways by which changes to adult movement patterns might influence reproductive ecology and how to best measure such effects in wild populations; and (6) assessing movement ecology in the context of interactions with key prey resources.

Research Publications Publication Date
Lamb, J.S., Y.G. Satge, C.V. Fiorello, P.G.R. Jodice. 2016. Behavioral and reproductive effects of bird-borne data logger attachment on Brown Pelicans on three temporal scales. Journal of Ornithology. doi:10.1007/s10336-016-1418-3 December 2016
Lamb, J.S., K.M. O’Reilly, P.G.R. Jodice. 2016. Physical condition and stress levels during early development reflect feeding rates and predict pre- and post-fledging survival in a nearshore seabird. Conservation Physiology 4 (1): cow060. doi: 10.1093/conphys/cow060 December 2016
Lamb, J.S., Y.G. Satge, P.G.R. Jodice. 2017. Influence of density-dependent competition on foraging and migratory behavior of a subtropical colonial seabird. Ecology and Evolution 2017;00:1–13. | Publisher Website July 2017
Lamb, J.S., Y.G. Satge, P.G.R. Jodice. 2017. Diet composition and provisioning rates of nestlings determine reproductive success in a subtropical seabird. Marine Ecology Progress Series 581:149-164. September 2017
Lamb, J.S., D.J. Newstead, L.M. Koczur, B.M. Ballard, C.M. Green, P.G.R. Jodice. 2018. A bridge between oceans: Overland migration of marine birds in a wind energy corridor. Journal Avian Biology e01474 doi: 10.1111/jav.01474 November 2017
Lamb, J.S., C.V. Fiorello, Y.G. Satge, K. Mills-Parker, M. Ziccardi, P.G.R. Jodice. 2018. Movement patterns of California brown pelicans following oiling and rehabilitation. Marine Pollution Bulletin 131:22-31 April 2018
Lamb, J.S., Y.G. Satgé, P.G.R. Jodice. 2020. Seasonal variation in environmental and behavioral drivers of annual-cycle habitat selection in a nearshore seabird. Diversity and Distributions. | Download December 2019
Ndu, U., J.S. Lamb, S. Janssen, R. Rossi, Y. Satgé, and P.G.R Jodice. 2020. Mercury, cadmium, copper, arsenic, and selenium measurements in the feathers of adult Eastern Brown Pelicans and chicks in multiple breeding grounds in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Environmental Research Letters 192, 286. | Download April 2020
Lamb, J.S., Y.G. Satgé, R.A. Streker, and P.G.R. Jodice. Ecological drivers of Brown Pelican movement patterns, health, and reproductive success in the Gulf of Mexico. U.S. Dept. of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Gulf of Mexico OCS Region, New Orleans, LA. OCS Study BOEM-2020-036. 232 pp. | Download July 2020
Streker, R.A., J.S. Lamb, J. Dindo, and P.G.R. Jodice. 2021. Fine-scale weather patterns drive reproductive success in the Brown Pelican. Waterbirds 44:153-166. | Download January 2022
Jodice, P.G.R., J.S. Lamb, Y.G. Satgé, C.E. Fiorello. 2022. Blood biochemistry and haematology of adult and chick Brown Pelicans in the northern Gulf of Mexico: Basleine health values and ecological relationships. Conservation Physiology 10(1): coac064; doi:10.1093/conphys/coac064 | Download September 2022
Presentations Presentation Date
Lamb, J.*, D. Newstead, B. Ballard, L. Koczur, P.G.R. Jodice, M.C. Green. 2014. A bridge between oceans: evidence for use of the Tehuantepec Isthmus by waterbirds during dispersal and migration. Waterbird Society Annual Meeting, La Paz, Mexico. November 2014
Lamb, J.*, P.G.R. Jodice. 2014. Comparative performance of cellular and satellite transmitters deployed on Brown pelicans in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Pacific Seabird Group Annual Meeting, Juneau, Alaska. February 2014
Lamb, J.*, P.G.R. Jodice. 2014. Gradients in breeding Brown Pelican forging radius, chick condition, and diet across the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Pacific Seabird Group Annual Meeting, Juneau, Alaska. February 2014
Lamb, J.*, P.G.R. Jodice. 2014. Year-round spatial overlap between energy infrastructure and brown pelican movements in the Gulf of Mexico. International Marine Conservation Congress, Glasgow, Scotland [Poster]. August 2014
Lamb, J., and P. Jodice. 2015. Sex, death, and oil: Conservation implications of individual and geographic variation in Brown Pelican movement patterns. 2nd World Seabird Conference, Cape Town, South Africa. October 2015
Lamb, J.*, P.G.R. Jodice. 2015. Should I stay or should I go? Physiology and geography predict individual migratory strategies in the brown pelican. Pacific Seabird Group Annual Meeting, San Jose, California. February 2015
Lamb, J., Y. Satge, P.G.R. Jodice. 2015. Variation in Brown Pelican energy provisioning rates across a range of juvenile forage fish availability. Waterbird Society Annual Meeting, Bar Harbor, Maine. August 2015
Lamb, J.*, K. O’Reilly, P.G.R. Jodice. 2016. Longterm physiological responses of nestling seabirds to variation in prey availability and nest conditions. Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Portland, Maine. January 2016
Theses and Dissertations Publication Date
Streker, R. 2019. Reproductive Ecology and Diet of Brown Pelicans in the Gulf of Mexico. MS Thesis Clemson University April 2019