Los Angeles resident Anne Fishbein did not expect to find a Brown Pelican standing alone in a parking lot at the end of her work day, yet here she was on May 8, 2023 in Culver City, CA. People had gathered around the listless bird, but nobody knew how to help. Anne stepped in, fearlessly grabbed the pelican, and placed her in the car. The pelican, too weak to resist, remained still on the road to International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles Wildlife Center.
“For a pelican to be several miles in from shore where pelicans never are, I knew something was wrong,” Anne told Bird Rescue. “Since twice before I’ve had to locate a rescue facility for an injured animal, I felt comfortable taking charge this time.”
When wild birds have difficulty finding food, they will risk leaving their natural habitat and attempt to find it elsewhere. Hungry and disoriented, they often wind up in unusual places and can’t find their way back. In many cases, food and fluids are all they need to quickly regain their strength in rehabilitation and return to the wild.
This pelican’s condition, however, was not a simple fix. The bird’s lower bill was broken on both sides and bent to the right such that her mouth couldn’t close. At first, she was given a tray of fish to eat on her own, but her crooked bill could not grasp the fish after several attempts. Afraid she might break the bill completely if this continued, staff and volunteers were tasked with hand-feeding her for several days.
Pelicans grasp fish with the tip of their bill, which functions rather like a big pair of tweezers. If there is a mismatch or a big hole in the pouch, fish can escape, and the bird goes hungry. This bird had obviously been injured as the fractures were starting to heal, albeit in incorrect positions. Her damaged bill needed to be surgically corrected if she ever wanted to thrive in the wild again.
66 days later, that dream came true. As a thank you, we invited Anne to join us on the release, and she even got to open gate and set the bird free. This pelican returned to the wild on July 13 with the blue leg band 1E6.
“I still can’t put it into words,” she said. “It was incredibly moving and beautiful.”
Our Veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Duerr wasn’t sure if this complex repair would even be possible, but she likes a challenge and was willing to try. Read more in part two to learn about this complex surgical repair.