At International Bird Rescue, this has truly been the year of the Brown Pelican.
Between our two centers in California, we have received well over 500 pelicans since July and nearly 800 to date this year — already a record for us, and surely there are many more to come. The majority of these birds are young, having just fledged in late spring on the Channel Islands. From there, they’ve moved along the coast with the adult pelicans to search for food and to find their way in the world.
Unbeknownst to them, the world not only has natural obstacles in it, but also many man-made ones, such as fish oiling from fish cleaning stations, fishing tackle and hook entanglements; and myriad other human-generated challenges.
We are not content to simply release these animals back into the wild. We want to know what happens to them. That’s why beginning in 2009, we began putting larger, blue plastic bands on their legs for easy identification. And soon, we’ll be banding our 1,000th blue-banded pelican. Another milestone!
What’s exciting to us at International Bird Rescue is that we are getting a clearer picture of what pelican life truly is like in these modern times. In a larger sense, these birds can serve as indicators for the environmental health of our oceans and coastlines.
While we receive reports about these birds on a weekly basis, we always need bird lovers to go out and look for them. Many are doing well and have been encountered from Mexico to Washington. A few others have died, and some have even returned to us with fishing tackle entanglements and other injuries such as sea lion bites.
Want to get involved? Here are two of the best ways to do so:
1. Look for blue-banded pelicans — at the beach, the piers, or wherever pelicans hang out. It’s fun and you may get to see one or more of the birds that we have cared for. Make sure to catch the band number, then let us know about your sighting at Report a Bird on our website.
2. Become a supporter of International Bird Rescue. Pelicans are extremely costly to rehabilitate and release back into the wild. As the limerick goes, A wonderful bird is the Pelican // His beak can hold more than his belly can. Our staff can attest to this firsthand! These birds consume about half their body weight per day — and the fish bill adds up. Your donation will help ensure that our mission to help pelicans and other aquatic birds in need continues. Find out more here.
In the near future, we’ll be launching a pelican page on our website that will give you an even more detailed picture of these magnificent birds and our efforts to help them thrive.
International Bird Rescue