With the help of our amazing community and clinic staff, International Bird Rescue has given hundreds of pelicans a second chance to fly free. As we celebrate Pelican Love month, we want to share some of our most memorable pouched patients — ones that overcame all odds, required months of intensive care, made miraculous recoveries, and reminded us of the importance of wildlife rehabilitation.
First, we have E17, a California Brown Pelican banded E17 during an extensive rehabilitation in 2010 at our Los Angeles Center in San Pedro, CA. E17 came into our care with his flight feathers clipped short, unable to fly, due to suspected human foul play. After a long 259 days, he regained the ability to fly and was released in October 2010. Seven years later, E17 was spotted on San Jeronimo Island in Baja California, Mexico with two chicks, making it the first confirmed sighting of one of International Bird Rescue’s rehabilitated pelicans on a nest with offspring. Not only did his healed wings take him 300 miles away from San Pedro, CA, but they gave him the opportunity to be a “doting dad,” noted JD Bergeron, Executive Director of International Bird Rescue. This international traveler was spotted a third time in Northern California during the semi-annual Brown Pelican count, confirming the great success of rehabilitation efforts.
In 2018, another blue-banded pelican was spotted in a breeding colony. M38 was seen on Santa Barbara Island, located in Channel Islands National Park, in breeding plumage near two Brown Pelican chicks. Seven years prior, M38 had come to our clinic emaciated with hypoproteinemia and anemia, as well as injuries on his legs. After treatment at our SF Bay Wildlife Center in Fairfield, CA, he gained 50% of his original weight and doubled his red blood cell count. M38 was released in Alameda, CA in late 2011 following his speedy recovery and was spotted in 2015 at 10 years old. We are excited to see M38 contributing to the recovery of the recently-endangered (and in some locations, extinct) population of Brown Pelicans.
Next we have Pink the pelican, a California Brown Pelican found in Long Beach, CA with a severe pouch laceration that would require multiple surgeries and weeks of care. In 2014, it was the worst human-caused pouch slash we had seen. There was a $20,000 reward for info on Pink’s injuries, but no one ever found the assailant. While we typically do not name the birds in our clinic, Pink’s name stuck after the bird was given a pink plastic leg band at intake. International Bird Rescue veterinarian Dr. Rebecca Duerr performed a three-hour procedure with the assistance of Los Angeles center rehabilitation staff. In the Ologies Podcast by Alie Ward, Dr. Duerr was given a shout-out for her amazing work repairing pelican pouches, including that of Pink. Dr. Duerr stitched Pink’s bill back with hundreds of sutures and the bird made an incredible recovery. Pink was released at White Point Park in San Pedro, CA by Los Angeles City Councilman Joe Buscaino and a young community member, making for a powerful and emotional experience. Now tagged with a blue band reading V70, this pelican will forever remain Pink, an animal cruelty victim and survivor.
During the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, a two-week old Brown Pelican referred to as Micro came into our care. As the tiniest pelican we had ever cared for, Micro presented various challenges to our response team members. First, we had to hand feed him while taking precautions to prevent human habituation. Then, we had to teach him to eat from a dish when he only responded to moving stimuli. Despite these difficulties, International Bird Rescue staff successfully rehabilitated Micro and he was eventually able to eat from a dish and interact with other young pelicans. Once fully grown at 2 to 3 months old, he showed positive signs of independence and was ready for release. Since his release in October of 2010 on Louisiana’s Raccoon Island, Micro has been sighted three times. We were thrilled to hear he was behaving like a wild pelican. Our hard work had paid off and taught us many lessons in caring for younger birds.
Last but definitely not least, we have our 2017 Bird of the Year, an American White Pelican with a miraculous story of survival. This pelican came to our center with a hook caught in its foot, a fractured lower left bill, multiple lacerations on its neck and foot, and a fish hook wound at the top of its mandible. Like this pelican, waterbirds often suffer additional injuries while struggling to free themselves from hooks and entangled lines. International Bird Rescue received this special pelican patient thanks to help from other caring organizations and individuals that took action when they saw an injured bird, sharing our mission to rescue waterbirds in crisis.
One thing these five cases have in common is that they could not have been successful without our generous supporters, enabling our staff to give second chances through the highest level of care. Together we peliCAN.