Since their recovery from population declines in the 1960s and 1970s, Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) have become a common breeder on the Atlantic coast of the southeastern U.S.A. Despite their relative abundance, few studies of their breeding biology have been conducted in this region. Parent and nestling behavior during early chick rearing were examined at a colony in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. Rates of parental and chick feeding decreased linearly with chick age. Rates of parental attendance, chick begging and chick aggression all peaked when chicks were approximately 21 d post-hatching and then declined. Direct feeding events were never observed when chicks were < 11 d of age and indirect feeding events were rarely observed after chicks were > 15 d of age. The transition from indirect to direct feeding was not accompanied by a change in begging rates. Shifts in the frequencies of both parent and chick behaviors occurred at approximately three weeks post-hatching, when chicks achieve thermoregulatory independence and become more mobile. These data suggest that any spatial or temporal comparisons of parent or chick behavior should be assessed in relation to the age category of the parent and the age of the chicks.
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Vol. 32 • No. 2