Pelican Power ~ featuring a mighty wingspan!  

I just finished this rather large painting (30” by 40”) of a Brown Pelican in flight! When I took the picture of the pelican, it had all of the qualities I was looking for in my next in-flight painting.  I wanted to feature it in a powerful action move and demonstrate its large 6-7 foot wingspan. 

    Pelican Power    by William R. Beebe, 30 x 40, Oil on canvas, $5500

Pelican Power by William R. Beebe, 30 x 40, Oil on canvas, $5500

Brown Pelicans plunge headlong into the water from up to 70 feet in the air!  They have keen eyesight allowing them to spot their catch of fish from way up high. Upon entry into the water they have lens covers to protect their eyes. They also have air sacs beneath their skin to help cushion the impact of the water and help them resurface after the strike.  

   Pelican Power   by William R. Beebe, head detail shot

Pelican Power by William R. Beebe, head detail shot

The impact of their stocky bodies stuns the fish and then they scoop the fish up into their large pouch. Once they drain the water from their pouch they point their long beaks skyward and swallow the fish whole.   

My painting depicts a breeding adult Brown Pelican taking off after having plunged into the deep ocean water. Take-offs highlight the power of this large bird. As their long wet wings appear to beat slowly, their large webbed feet strongly push off and paddle on the water’s surface.  Leaving a large splash behind, the pelican gets airborne and is off in a flash.  

   Pelican Power   by William R. Beebe, splash detail

Pelican Power by William R. Beebe, splash detail

It all happens fast. This image is fleeting, as if it was a sighting of a super-hero.  I love watching, photographing, and painting pelicans.  

This particular bird is between 3 to 5 years old, identified by the breeding plumage (yellow head, dark reddish-brown neck, and the pink around the eye).  Pelicans are long-lived birds often living up to 30 years old.  

The sky is early morning, with clouds receding off into the distance, giving the illusion of endless sea. The bird is flying solo, confident in its every move. 

I hope this image strikes you the way it did me. Thank you for your interest in my art and for reading my journal. I have a seagull in flight painting already underway!  


One of the joys of being an artist is having the freedom to follow my passion...
— William R. Beebe
 What's next?  Drawing by William R. Beebe

What's next?

Drawing by William R. Beebe