1,000 Blue-Banded Pelicans — and Counting!

On a recent afternoon at the Golden Gate Recreation Area’s Ft. Baker, International Bird Rescue released its 1,000th Blue-Banded Pelican, with wonderful help from bird lover Ken Blum and his family!

#ROO, a juvenile, was released alongside a fellow juvenile pelican. Surrounded by porpoises, gulls, cormorants, grebes and sea lions at Ft. Baker, the two birds took a few moments to find their bearings upon leaving their respective crates, then headed off and performed some fantastic synchronized flying in the bay. The Blum family attended with our San Francisco Bay Area wildlife care center manager Michelle Bellizzi (pictured below with Benjamin Blum) and volunteer coordinator Cheryl Reynolds.

Why are these pelicans wearing blue bands, you might ask?

International Bird Rescue has been saving pelicans since 1971. Once decimated by the use of DDT, which put them on the endangered species list, the population has since rebounded in recent decades, and the species was taken off the endangered list in 2009. However, we still receive hundreds of Brown Pelicans each year at our centers for a variety of reasons, from fishing hook injuries to seal bites to domoic acid poisoning — the result of a neurotoxin produced by algae.

We are not content to simply release these animals back into the wild. We want to know what happens to them. That’s why beginning in 2009, we began putting larger, blue plastic bands on their legs for easy identification. These bands are in addition to the metal federal band. Because of this, we are receiving many more reports from the public on these birds — exactly what we were hoping for!

Want to get involved? Here are two of the best ways to do so:

1. Look for Blue-Banded Pelicans — at the beach, the piers, or wherever pelicans hang out. It’s fun and you may get to see one or more of the birds that we have cared for. Make sure to catch the band number, then let us know about your sighting at Report a Bird on our website.

2. Become a supporter of International Bird Rescue. Pelicans are extremely costly to rehabilitate and release back into the wild. These birds consume about half their body weight per day — and the fish bill adds up. Your donation will help ensure that our mission to help pelicans and other aquatic birds in need continues. Find out more here.

Photos and video By Cheryl Reynolds

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