ARCHIVED: Brown Pelican Surveys

PLEASE NOTE: This project is currently not active – this is an archival page for those interested in reviewing previous community science projects.

Oregon Coast-wide | Spring & Fall

Important changes due to COVID-19: Brown Pelican Surveys are currently moving forward under the following guidelines:

  • Only conduct surveys on your own or with members of your immediate household or pod.  
  • If members of the public are encountered during the survey, all social distancing policies will be adhered (remain at least 6 feet away, bring sanitizer/disinfectant with you and clean your hands before and after your survey)

Although the Brown Pelican was removed from the Endangered Species List in 2009, new threats are challenging this bird’s survival. In recent years this species has suffered huge nest failures on its breeding grounds off southern and Baja California, which is thought to be tied to declines in their main food source, forage fish (primarily anchovies).

The goal of these surveys is to help us define the distribution and abundance of Brown Pelicans and track shifts in population structure to help us better protect this majestic bird.

This project also informs our larger efforts to protect forage fish species that are vital prey for seabirds, marine mammals and commercially important fish like salmon.

Partners: Bird Alliance of Oregon California, Bird Alliance of Oregon Washington, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Conservación de islas

A photo of a Brown Pelican in flight coming in for a landing on the ocean.
Pacific Brown Pelican, photo by Mick Thompson

About the Survey

  • Survey Instructions: Please read protocol for detailed instructions on how to conduct the survey
  • When: This survey is conducted two days each year:  a spring survey in May and a fall survey in September and are always on a Saturday.
  • Where: The survey is conducted from 18 pre-selected sites in Oregon that will be assigned to you although you are welcome to ask to survey at a site of your choice.  You can do the survey alone or with a team.
  • Time Commitment: The survey is conducted during a 4 hour window prior to sundown – in Oregon during the survey dates this will generally be between 5-9 p.m.
  • Reporting: Enter your data on a data sheet while at the site and afterward enter into the online database.

Volunteer Requirements

  • Trainings: No training necessary. The protocol provides detailed instructions
  • Birding skills: Must be able to visually identify Brown Pelicans and ideally age birds as juvenile or adult.
  • Equipment: Must have your own binoculars and/or spotting scope. Some sites require a spotting scope.
  • Field conditions: Surveys are done from a stationary location and do not require hiking or extensive physical exertion
  • Transportation to and from the site is your responsibility


For questions contact Joe Liebezeit at