I am doing research on Brown Pelicans and have photos/descriptions of the breeding and nonbreeding appearances of adults, esp. the California and eastern subspecies here on our southern Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, and southern Atlantic coasts.
One question is really puzzling me:
The birds are described as having long pale bills, some with some brown on them. The bill of the California subspecies is described as acquiring some orange or red during the breeding season (along with the gular pouch which turns bright red/orange/pink). But I see photos of nonbreeding birds (with completely white necks) with either a little or quite a bit of orange on their bills, usually on the lower half.
There are so many pictures like this that the orange cannot be just a breeding color.
Do some Brown Pelicans just have some or quite a bit of orange on their bills, even when they are not breeding? I have looked at just about every link that comes up under Brown Pelicans and no one explains the presence of orange in some of their bills (except during the California subspecies' breeding season). In the official descriptions of the appearances of nonbreeding adults, orange in the bill is never mentioned. I would like to know the answer to this detail in the appearance of some of them!