Bringing Yosemite’s Pelican Back to Life

After a brush with starvation, this wayward Pelican made it from Yosemite to International Bird Rescue and back into the wild.

After she was rescued from a highway tunnel by park rangers in Yosemite National Park, a wayward female Brown Pelican was delivered to International Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay Center on July 18.

When she arrived at the center, we determined her gender and age by the length of her bill. She was an after-second-year female, and her bloodwork indicated that she was very anemic and had been eating little to nothing for some time. She was cold and emaciated, with a 2-3 inch laceration along her mandible, and another laceration near her right wrist. Her wounds were cleaned and dressed, and she was set up in the ICU, due to her low temperature. When she was offered food, she began eating immediately, and she was also given IV fluids and a nutrition tubing so that she would have easy calories to digest. Many birds with her blood values do not survive, but with this mix of nutrition she was able to gain 600 grams her first night, and was approved to move out of ICU the next day. The following day she continued to eat and look great, and was moved again — this time outside, to a heron and egret aviary.

Since she continued to do well outside, she was moved to the pelican aviary, with about 100 other Brown Pelicans. Unfortunately, her first night in this large, yet crowded, enclosure did not go well. In the morning we found that she was struggling to stand and that the juvenile birds had ripped open the wound on her wrist that had been stapled shut. She was moved back inside for some quiet time and to take care of her wrist.

By July 24, her weight was up 1,200 grams from intake, and she was having her wrist wound cleaned and dressed daily. She was living in one of the smaller outside enclosures and her pouch tear was quickly healing on it’s own. Soon her daily wrist wraps and antibiotics could be discontinued and by August 8 her wounds were completely healed and her bloodwork was greatly improved from intake.

A week later, she was flying expertly in the pelican aviary, had releasable blood values, and weighed 1,300 grams more than she did on intake. This once wayward Brown Pelican was ready for the release track, and able to leave us a few days later!


1 thought on “Bringing Yosemite’s Pelican Back to Life”

  1. On July 07, 2012, our PRBO/MLC CAGU Gull Research project biologists encountered a pelican flying over the Negit Islets of Mono Lake. It was exciting, because it was a county record, but also sad because there is no food source (fish) for pelicans in Mono Lake. Despite the many other lakes and streams nearby with fish, this bird was very far from its natural habitat and the outcome seemed quite poor. I am heartened to think that perhaps this rehabbed bird may be the same individual we encountered. I have made a couple of donations, including ‘adopting a pelican’. I am going to consider this bird my adoptee.

    Thank you for all you do.

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