Blue-Banded Pelican Contest: Clue #3

In last week’s clue for our current Blue-Banded Pelican Sighting Contest, we talked about pelicans commonly found on the breakwaters.

This week’s sighting tip? Pelicans love to hang out on sandbars with fellow pelicans, gulls and other birds. They like to bathe in fresh water around these areas, so often you can see them preening and lounging after bathing. It’s an easy place to spot them, and there’s usually a limited amount of grass or rocks to block the view of the bands. So check out sandbars in bays or at the mouths of rivers.

During domoic acid outbreaks in the Malibu area, we go to sandbars to identify pelicans that are being impacted. Produced by harmful algal blooms, domoic acid is a neurotoxin, and birds that have been affected can be seen weaving their heads back and forth. Pelicans that have been heavily impacted can even fall out of the sky. If we can get to them in time, we can treat them with aggressive fluid therapy and medications to reduce the seizures. Many survive.

J65, as seen here in the photo above, came to us as a sick adult bird, having hung out around the Malibu spit. Unfortunately, this bird did no survive post-release. A post-mortem did not show any abnormalities — it may simply have been an old bird. Whether or not they survive, we collect as much data as we can on these Blue-Banded Pelicans to find out more about their post-release experiences.

Want to know more about this sighting contest? Check out the rules here. You can report your sighting via our online system.