Blue-Banded Brown Pelican N89 Spotted With Baby

N89 blue-banded Brown Pelican was sighted on Santa Barbara Island with a young pelican. Photos & report: Jim Howard, California Institute of Environmental Studies (CIES)

Nearly four years after release, a former patient – a blue-banded California Brown Pelican – was spotted on Santa Barbara Island, caring for a young pelican.

Back in May 2018, the Brown Pelican N89 was found in Malibu, CA and admitted to nearby California Wildlife Center. It was experiencing low body temperature, emaciation, minor bill and pouch wounds, and some bruises and scabs on her wrists. She was then transferred to our Los Angeles wildlife center, where she quickly thermo-regulated, gained over one kilogram, and was released after 19 days of care. It’s gratifying for our staff, volunteers and supporters to not only see N89 exactly four years post-release, but to also see her caring for a little pelican of her own.

Brown Pelican chicks are naked and helpless and are fully dependent on parental care.

It’s important to remember that Brown Pelican chicks are naked and helpless the first three to four weeks after hatching. During this time they fully dependent on parental care and for protection. The pelican parents will feed the young until the chicks “fledge” (until its wing feathers are developed enough for flight around 13 weeks).

The photos and report were provided by Jim Howard, of the California Institute of Environmental Studies (CIES). Howard Howard is the lead seabird biologist for CIES on the Channel Islands National Park seabird projects.

Rich in seabird life, Santa Barbara Island is 38 miles from the mainland of Southern California and is the smallest of the Channel Islands National Park system. In a typical season, 1,500 nesting pairs of California Brown Pelicans will make their home on the island.

Placing easily readable numbered bands on birds provides us with valuable data on breeding success, returning patients, live sightings, travel patterns, and life span. Seeing a bird like N89 thrive after release is a testament to the work that we do rehabilitating one bird at a time. More information on our banding programs can be found here.