Pelicans flying in formation

Pelicans flying in formation

On a recent visit to the Point Vicente Interpretive Center, I had the chance to witness California brown pelicans flying in formation.

Now just to be clear, I’ve seen pelicans fly in a V shaped formation before, but this was different. Usually, pelicans fly by in a V shaped formation, everyone exclaims, “Oh, look! The pelicans are flying in V!” And then the pelicans keep on flying and everyone’s attention shifts to something else.

At the Point Vicente Interpretive Center, the pelicans flew by in a V shaped formation and I got pretty excited because they were relatively close and I could snap a few pictures. In fact, the picture on the left is the first shot I took. Then I put my camera down because I figured that was it. But then another group of pelicans came flying by in a V and then another and another!

Then the pelicans would make a return trip back towards Point Vicente, turn around and start all over again. Now I can’t say for certain it was always the same few groups of birds flying back and forth because let’s be honest, pelicans all look the same, but is sure seemed like the same birds.

Pelicans flying in formation, like mini dive bombers

At one point there were so many pelicans that they looked like mini dive bombers flying towards an unknown target, preparing for attack.

We couldn’t figure out what they were really doing. There was a nice wind that day, so they may have been riding the wind or possibly hunting. Either way it was fun to watch.

If you are ever in need of an ocean wildlife fix, visit the Point Vicente Interpretive Center at the tip of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. This is where the ACS/LA Census volunteers watch for gray whales. You never know what you might see!


  1. Keith Vrhel M.D. says

    Here in San Diego (actually Cardiff-by the Sea) Have seen large numbers of pelicans,the most in twenty years. . Wonder why?

    • Carolyn Kraft says

      Good question Keith! During an interview with a pelican expert, he mentioned that pelicans are smart birds and they tend to follow the food. There must be more food to be had near Cardiff by the Sea right now than during previous years. Ocean conditions must be favoring their favorite sardines, which doesn’t surprise me with all the cooler weather we’ve been having in Southern California.

    • Carolyn Kraft says

      Hi Mark, I can only imagine the amount of work involved cleaning up pelican poop! Pelicans are huge birds!

      • says

        Pelican poop is, indeed, HUGE! A driver cannot put off having the window cleaned, as it takes up a very large “chunk” of space, and it can be treacherous driving when you’re unable to see the road!

  2. says

    I saw this and became sad that there was no further discussion after 2013! Being “lucky” enough to have married Air Force, and having lived in many places along the worlds coastal areas, I find the brown pelican to be as beloved to me as a Hawaiian Mynah bird, a Liwi or a Nene! The brown pelicans captured my heart as gentle souls who have been forced out of most of their natural environments, and still suffer from ignorant human cruelty.
    Despite that, here’s an interesting wives tale. Supposedly if you see a pod flying and it’s an even number, the weather should be great for outdoor activities! If the pelicans are flying in an uneven pod, the weather will most likely end up having you changing your plans or you’re likely to have a disastrous day!

    • Carolyn Kraft says

      Hi Draco, I haven’t been able to find the answer to your question! This might make an excellent research project for an aspiring student out there. I’ll weigh in again if I’m able to find the answer.

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