Thorns Removed From Pelican Foot: “Like Pimple Popping for Wildlife”

Photo of foot of Brown Pelican as staff removes thorns at International Bird Rescue.
Thorns are delicately removed from the foot of a Brown Pelican in care at International Bird Rescue. Watch the video by Ariana Gastelum–International Bird Rescue

Removing thorns can be tedious, but the results are always satisfying. Across our social media platforms, this video has caught the attention of over 4 million people! If you prefer to watch via TikTok, view it here.

When young Brown Pelicans are admitted into care, their feet are often covered in sharp thorns, and staff are tasked with removing every single one. This happens because colonies nest on ground sites that are often covered with dense vegetation or surrounded by low shrubs, which can have thorns or spiny foliage. Watching the removal process up close makes it look easy, but it can be very uncomfortable for the patient. Two to three people are needed to keep the bird secure, withdraw the thorns safely, and give them pain medications. In bad cases, full anesthesia is sometimes needed.

We are grateful for the opportunity to share the work we do with people all over the world. shares our social media content. Together, we’re spreading the word about the importance of taking action to help birds in a changing world.