Are Pelicans Vocal? What Sound Does A Pelican Make?

There are various sounds that are without caution generalized as being vocalized by all birds.

Besides, a general notion is that the sounds produced by birds are songs. However, this is inaccurate.

Birds like pelicans communicate using different sounds (which are not songs but calls) and different kinds of non-vocal behavior which indicates a message of a specific kind.

Are pelicans vocal? Do pelicans make noises?

In areas other than their breeding colony, pelicans hardly ever make noise. They hiss through the gaping bill when they are angry.

The pelicans only become vocal at meals or in huge breeding colonies, using a sort of grunting sound to convey their joy.

To mark their area, certain pelicans will also clap their bills while gazing upward, gape, bow, and wag their heads.

How do pelicans sound? What sound does a pelican make?

There are various different sounds made by the pelicans. To know the kind of sound that a pelican makes, access the following link:

Sounds and vocal behavior of brown pelicans

The Brown Pelican is unable to make vocal sounds because it lacks syringeal muscles. It might make some noises, though, especially when breeding. 

The noises made by the grownups include groans, rattles, hissing, puffing, and other sounds. These noises are frequently connected to aggressiveness or demonstrations. The juvenile birds’ cries for food include grunts, yells, screams, and squeaks.


A low, hoarse sound is only made by adults while they are performing wing-jerking demonstrations, which drive air from their lungs. Nestlings squawk loudly and raspily to request nourishment.


The Brown Pelican bends its bill together in defense of its nest, creating a loud popping sound that reverberates in its neck pouch.

Sounds and vocal behavior of American white pelicans

Adults typically don’t speak. They frequently make low, short grunts at the colony site during hostile and sexual interactions.

Before hatching, chick embryos squawk to show their displeasure in extreme temperatures.

The loud begging calls of hundreds of older young in the colony can be described as a “whining grunt”.

Non-vocal sounds include the bill popping during combat and the wings slapping water while bathing or herding prey.

How do pelicans communicate?

Adult pelicans primarily use their wings and bills as well as visual cues to communicate. Angry behavior includes rising and threateningly flapping the wings or pushing and snapping at adversaries with bills.

Threat Signs:

 1. Head swaying:

Moves its head and opened the bill in a horizontal figure-8 while slouching its wrists and crossing its wings over its tail. It is performed by an unattached male at a suitable nesting location in reaction to another pelican’s movement or arrival.

It indicates a willingness to engage in conversation, with a higher likelihood of attack if another man approaches and a lesser likelihood of assault if a female does. 

When a partner returns to the nest, either sex of the established couple will also perform it. Head Swaying functions as a demonstration of acknowledgment in this situation.

2. Bowing:

The neck is arched away from the body, the bill is pointing down and slightly backward, and the wings are held slightly open with the tips of the wings under the elbow.

The bird rhythmically jerks both wings once every second while emitting a husky hrraa-hrraa sound.

It is performed at the nest site by both sexes in reaction to the movement of neighboring pelicans, primarily during the early stages of courtship.

It shows intent to remain on the nest and attack if an intruder arrives. It also shows site ownership and is considered a more serious threat on defense than head swaying.

Appeasement Displays:

1. Head movement:

Swings head side to side while holding bill against neck and drooping wrists (low intensity) or raises bill nearly horizontally and spreads wings somewhat (high intensity).

With increasing intensity, the swinging rate rises; maintains eye contact with the recipient of the display while pausing at either end of the arc.

It is performed at the nest and by birds huddled together outside of the breeding season by both sexes.

Interaction avoidance is the message. The signaler is not interested in being assaulted and will run away if approached.

2. Upright:

The pelican expands its wings and raises its bill toward a horizontal position, stretching the gular pouch taut.

Usually done when standing on the nest or a nearby perch during the initial stages of nesting in reaction to the arrival of the mate; it can also be done right before takeoff or right after landing.

Outside of the breeding season, this behavior is also carried out by adults congregated in roosts or lounging locations. Typically, people don’t face one another. It indicates a lack of initiative, nonaggression, or interaction.

3. Aerial upright:

Similar to upright, although rarely done while gliding to perch.

4. Preening:

Preens briefly and ineffectively on the side of the body that is facing away from a close pelican; this behavior is regularly mixed with other displays and conveys non-aggression.

How do pelicans communicate with their chicks?

While still within the egg, pelican chicks interact with their moms. They are able to communicate when they are too hot or too chilly.

To make it easier for them to recognize their parents when they emerge from the egg, they also listen to them from there.

The chicks might also make a kind of screaming sound when they want to be fed by their parents.

This is primarily because young chicks eat food from their parents’ gullets before they learn to use their beaks without getting them ripped on sharp rocks.

This video shows the kinds of voices chick pelicans make

Do pelicans sing?

Storks, pelicans, and some types of vultures are the only bird species without a voice. These birds can only make vocal noises; they cannot sing or call.

Do pelicans hiss?

Yes, they hiss through the gaping bill when they are angry. The pelicans only become vocal at meals or in huge breeding colonies, using a sort of grunting sound to convey their joy.

Do pelicans scream?

Yes, pelicans might scream when caught in an intense fight or when the chicks are extremely hungry.

This video shows how pelican screams


It can be said that understanding the communication patterns of the pelicans can prove tough since there are variations among the eight species.

Besides, another challenge is that these water birds are usually silent outside and make sounds only when in their breeding colony.

Thus, non-verbal cues are much more reliable for us as they are noticeably visible.

Intro Video - Backtobirds
Intro Video - Backtobirds