Blue-Banded Pelican sightings this fall

Banded Brown Pelican Coming Down
Blue-Banded Pelican T82 surrounded by Heermann’s Gulls, photo by Marlin Harms

All field accounts indicate that it’s been a good year for seabirds along the West Coast that feed on schooling fish like sardines and anchovies. Fish seem to be plentiful to the point that they are drawing birds from the south, such as the current influx of Blue-footed Boobies that have made their way into California following large schools of sardines.

Last year at this time, our two centers were inundated with young pelicans. This year to date, our Los Angeles has received fewer than 100 first-year birds, compared to the nearly 500 young pelicans we had last year at this time. Our San Francisco Bay center has had less than 50 youngsters this year, compared to the 300 or so that had come in last year at this time.

We are not complaining. We are happy! If you go to any of the large pelican roosts, such as Dinosaur Rocks near Pismo Beach, the breakwaters at Half Moon Bay, Monterey or Astoria, Ore. and Westport, Wash., you will see lots of first-year pelicans, healthy and flying off to feed on fish offshore.

What this has done, however, is made the sighting of blue-banded birds from our Blue-Banded Pelican Program a bit more difficult. They are not hanging around people in harbors as much because they don’t need us. They have another fish source that seems to be pretty easy to access.

We still have had some really impressive sightings of a few of our rehabilitated birds though, and we wanted to share them with 6d6d79e6aa3e70eebfca8455b3765220you:

K15: This second-year bird, who was the darling of the Pacifica Pier throughout 2012, has been seen three times in Westport, Wash. this summer hanging out with other pelicans on the breakwater to the harbor. We were very concerned about this bird, as people fed it, took pictures with it and petted it for months in Pacifica and even called him their mascot. Because of this, we were skeptical about K15’s survival due to its habituation to humans and fishing piers. But the recent sightings have shown that when natural food is plentiful, pelicans tend to avoid humans, even if they know they can get a handout.

K15 was originally released on July 26, 2011. He has been too far away to get good photos, but he’s going into his adult plumage and looks like a different bird.

C34 ModschiiedlerC34 (shown left) was reported dozens of times last year, as he spent much of his time hanging out at the Redondo Beach Pier. There is even a video on YouTube where a family was feeding and trying to pet him. C34 is an adult bird that was released on Nov. 6, 2009. He was seen at the pier in February 2013 but then disappeared. He showed up again on Sept. 20 at the pier. Here’s a photo by IBR volunteer Paul Modschiiedler.

T82 (shown at the top of this post) came to us with a broken wing and was released on Jan. 31, 2013 in San Pedro, Calif. This bird was sighted on Sept. 13, 2013 making a graceful landing in San Luis Obispo, photo my Marlin Harms.

There is still time to find Blue-Banded Pelicans and a chance to win a spotting scope as part of this fall’s sighting contest. Just go to their roosting spots and scope for the bands!

You can see more photos of Blue-Banded Pelicans sent to us on our Pinterest page.

Have a photo of a Blue-Banded Pelican? Email us and we may feature it!