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image for Audubon paints the Brown peilcan in Florida Keys and Key West

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John Audubon visits Key West
and observes the Brown Pelican

 

map of Brown Pelican

May 4, 1832 - Audubon arrives Key West , spends the next 17 days in Key West and surrounding waters with trip to the Dry Tortugas

Key West - Probably painted the Brown Pelican there.


 

Brown Pelican
Audubob's painting of Brown Pelican from Birds of ASmerica.
Above image from Historical Museum of Southern Florida - Audubon images at the Historical Museum website were produced from prints of an original Elephant Folio belonging to the museum. http://www.historical-museum.org/collect/audubon/audubon.htm) See Audubon House  
 

TO BUY
Click Here for information on a 24" x 18" Brown Pelican print

 

While Audubon was in Key West he probably painted the Brown Pelican picture above. He may have painted it earlier in April, however. His assistant, Lehman drew the red mangrove branch.

Audubon's Ornithological Biography account of the Brown Pelican goes on for eight pages.

"The Brown Pelican, which is one of the most interesting of our American birds, is a constant resident in the Floridas, where it resorts in the Keys and salt-water inlets, but never enters fresh-water streams as the White Pelican is wont to do."

"On arriving in the Keys of Florida, on board the Marion Revenue Cutter, I found the Pelicans pretty numerous. They became more abundant the further south we proceeded, and I procured specimens at different places, but nowhere so many as at Key West. There you would see them flying within pistol-shot of the wharfs, the boys frequently trying to knock them down with stones, although I believe they rarely succeed in their efforts. The Marion lay at anchor several days at a short distance from this island, and close to another. Scarcely an hour of daylight passed without having Pelicans around us, all engaged at their ordinary occupations, some fishing, some slumbering as it were on the bosom of the ocean, or on the branches of the mangroves . . . ."

" When half fledged, "The Indians ... carry them off in considerable numbers; ... on the Halifax river, for instance, the Negroes kill all they can find, to make gumbo soup of them during the winter."

 Audubon also described the Brown pelican in his account of the Laughing Gull,

"I doubt . . . if I ever felt greater pleasure than I do at this moment, when, with my journal at my side, and the gulls and pelicans in my mind's eye as distinctly as I could wish, I ponder on the faculties which nature has bestowed on animals which were merely considered as possessed of instinct."

For more on this description where Audubon gives an account of Laughing Gulls stealing fish escaping from the Brown pelican's bill go to Black Headed Gull

Lehman drew the red mangrove branch. Audubon writes about the Red Mangrove,

The species of Mangrove represented in the plate is very abundant along the coast of Florida and almost all of the Keys, excepting the Tortugas. Those islands which are named Wet Keys are entirely formed of Mangroves, which raising their crooked and slender stems from a bed of mud, continue to increase until their roots and pendent branches afford shelter to the accumulating debris, when the earth is gradually raised above the surface of the water. No sooner has this taken place then the Mangroves in the central part of the island begin to decay, and in the course of time there is only an outer fringe or fence of trees, while the interior becomes overgrown with grass and low bushes. Meantime the Mangroves extend towards the sea, their hanging branches taking root wherever they come in contact with the bottom, and the seeds also springing up. I am at a loss for and object with which to compare these trees, . . . yet if you will figure to yourself a tree reversed, and standing on its summit, you may obtain a tolerable notion of their figure and mode of growth. . . . They are evergreen, and the tops afford a place of resort to various species of birds at all seasons, while the roots and submersed branches give shelter to numberless testaceous mullusca and small fish. . . . The Land Mangrove [ Black Mangrove] of which I have seen only a few, the finest of which were in Key west, is a tall tree, much larger and better shaped than the other, with narrower leaves and shorter fruit.

 

The Brown Pelican with its huge pouched beak and thick legs is wonderful wildlife tourist attraction in the Florida Keys. It is a strong flyer and can be seen flying with other pelicans in unison and single formation. It an expert fisherman. Tourists love to watch the Brown Pelican dive from the air in order to catch fish. From a height of 15 or more feet it flys downward making a last minute half roll before it plunges into the water. The Brown Pelican can be seen sitting on the railing of the Florida Keys many bridges. The birds are comfortable with man and often will appear dockside looking for a handout when locals return from a day of fishing.



BROWN PELICAN

 

 Diving and Feeding White Pelican photos courtesy
of South Florida Water Management District
CLICK on image for larger representation

 


Additional information about the brown pelican may be found by following the link below to the Florida Breeding Bird Atlas. The Atlas, a collaborative effort of Audubon of Florida, the Florida Ornithological Society, and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission provides information of general status, habitat, and status of  breeding species in Florida
 

 http://wildflorida.org/bba/BRPE.htm

Additional information about the brown pelican may be found by following this link
to
eNature.com

 

 

 


 

WHITE PELICAN

TO BUY - Click Here for information on the 24" x 15.8" White Pelican print

The White Pelican unlike the Brown Pelican stays far away from mankind and rests and breeds on small islands of the Florida Keys. The White Pelican feeds by splashing their wings and feet in the water to chase small fish into shallows in order to scoop them up with their bill. White Pelicans breed on Arsnicker Key in the Florida Keys. Care should be used when birding by keeping a good distance as not to frighten them away. Use a naturalist guide who knows the shallow waters and tides when visiting Arsnicker Key. See Birding.

The Audubon painting of the White Pelican is believed to have been painted sometime in 1831 or 1832 during Audubon's journey to Florida.

 

 

 White Pelican photo courtesy of South Florida Water Management District
CLICK on image for larger representation.

 

White Pelican photos below courtesy of Duck Key resident, Mary Moccia. First image also shows two eagles perched on mangroves.

 

 

 

 

Additional information about the white pelican may be found by following this link to eNature.com.

 

 


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