Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. While brown pelicans are always easy to identify because of their distinctive size, shape, and generally dark color, they also have three distinctly different plumages. Males and females are always similar in appearance, but young and old birds differ. During its first two years, a young brown pelican is a rather drab gray-brown all over. By its third year, however, a brown pelican begins to show its characteristic adult colors. The basic plumage it has in winter includes a white head and neck. Prior to breeding in spring, however, adult pelicans replace body feathers with an alternate plumage, giving them a white to yellow-white head and a chestnut-brown neck. I always tell my students that they can remember the plumages of the brown pelican by linking the white neck of the winter bird with snow, and the brown neck of the nesting birds with bare ground. Its nesting approach is the bill and bare skin of a brown pelican's face and throat can show colors ranging from blue-gray to dark green and pink, orange, or red. The intensity of color is greatest in the weeks just before nesting, and the colors shown vary among pelican populations.'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.