Tales of Survival: Three Inspiring Brown Pelican Recoveries

Brown Pelican patients affected by the recent crisis continue to make progress in the large aviary. Photos: Ariana Gastelum – International Bird Rescue

In the midst of the Brown Pelican crisis, nearly 340 pelicans have entered our two California clinics in desperate need of medical attention. Among these, there emerge stories of resilience and hope. Today, we shine a spotlight on three extraordinary pelicans whose unique journeys in rehabilitation highlight the dedication and expertise of our team. Each of these pelicans have overcome significant obstacles, and they persist in their recovery under our attentive care.

If these tales resonate with you, we humbly urge your support in our ongoing endeavors to restore these pelicans to their natural habitat. Donate here.

Brown Pelican LA-0493: Mending a Pouch Laceration

Brown Pelican LA-0493 is now able to eat on her own and is steadily regaining her strength as she heals from pouch-repair surgery.

Approximately one-third of the Brown Pelicans admitted during this event are coming into care with injuries, many of which are caused by fishing hook and line entanglements and require surgery. This Brown Pelican was found on May 4 in Ventura, CA with a pouch laceration measuring approximately 10.5 inches long.

After a couple days of supportive care, Veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Duerr repaired the bird’s pouch, which took approximately one and a half hours to complete. Five other birds with pouch lacerations are currently in care.

Before this, Dr. Duerr had recently repaired the severed pouch of another Brown Pelican, nicknamed “Blue,” who was recently released after two months in care on April 24.

Since surgery, this patient has made great progress. She is able to eat on her own and is steadily regaining her strength. She continues to recover in a small aviary alongside dozens of other pelicans in care.

Brown Pelican LA-0507: Found on the Tarmac of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Brown Pelican LA-0507 has regained 50% of her body weight since she was admitted to care on May 8.

In an effort to find food, Brown Pelicans will leave their natural habitat and risk their lives in human-populated areas. This Brown Pelican was discovered disoriented on the tarmac of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on May 8. Thanks to prompt intervention, she got the care she urgently needed.

Since her first day in care, she has recovered from hypothermia, starvation, dehydration, gastrointestinal parasites, and a respiratory gurgle. She has regained 50% of her body weight and continues to get stronger each day. She currently resides in our large aviary where she is practicing her flight before returning to the wild.


Brown Pelican SF-0550: Recovering from Oil Contamination

After receiving a wash, Brown Pelican SF-0550 continues to heal from the burns caused by the oil contamination. Photo by Kelly Nesbitt – International Bird Rescue

Even outside of oiled-bird season (during the fall and winter months), some birds will still come into contact with oil, requiring our experienced staff and volunteers to meticulously wash and care for them. This Brown Pelican, transferred from Monterey County SPCA on May 9, arrived heavily contaminated with oil caused by natural seep on its neck, back, and wings. The bird was also emaciated and dehydrated.

After a couple days of stabilizing care, the pelican was successfully washed on May 11, uncovering a number of burns due to the oil. Thankfully, the burns are healing nicely, and the bird is gaining a healthy amount of weight while in rehab. It will soon move from to the large aviary, where over 100 other pelicans are working to return to the wild.