Australia's disappearing waterbirds |
Chase Lake | Colorado's
largest bird | hurricane effects
1, 2 3 |
Salton Sea | Singapore
| Tampa | Utah to Sea
World | Virginia waterbird woes | White
Pelicans | zoo, Decatur, Illinois, killing
ND wonders, Are Chase Lake pelicans arriving in Florida?
RICHARD HINTON, Bismarck Tribune
2004, American white pelicans are settling into their winter
hangouts on the Florida Gulf Coast, but what's unclear is
how many are part of the huge pelican colony that vanished
from North Dakota last spring.
Ann Paul, Tampa Bay regional coordinator for Audubon of
Florida, had no estimate of how many white pelicans had
arrived and didn't expect a number until after the Christmas
Bird Count. Typically, 10,000 to 12,000 white pelicans winter
in the area.
More than 27,000 white pelicans abruptly pulled out of their
summer breeding grounds at Chase Lake National Wildlife
Refuge last spring, abandoning eggs and some young and leaving
biologists to wonder why.
"I wouldn't say they are those birds without seeing
the bands," Paul said Monday, "and getting close
Banding studies have shown that the Tampa area's pelican
population comes from North Dakota and Minnesota, Paul said.
"It wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility,"
Mick Erickson, the Chase Lake refuge manager, said of Tampa's
growing pelican population.
Even if the pelicans had summered as usual at Chase Lake
NWR, they would have migrated anyway, Erickson added.
But the pelicans' return to the Tampa area was of keener
interest than usual this fall because of the mysterious
Paul estimated as many as 400 on one sandbar in late October,
with more arrivals almost daily.
"I was glad to see them," she said.
With some white pelicans possibly back in their routines,
next comes Erickson's turn to wait.
"We are anticipating them coming back, and we hope
things return to normal," he said. "We're anxiously
(Reach reporter Richard Hinton at 250-8256 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
return to top
Pelicans Return to Tampa
— Nov 26, 2004
JANIS D. FROELICH, email@example.com
- First a pair of white pelicans arrive, swooping into McKay
Bay on majestic wings tinged with black. Then a half-dozen
are in place. Seafood shop operator Linwood Crain stands
on a dock at the Crab Hut, squinting in the afternoon sun,
and counts 23 white pelicans. He's happy to see them back.
``The brown pelicans, blue herons and sea gulls are here
year-round, but not the white pelicans,'' Crain said."It's
always a big event when we spot the first pair,'' said Patricia
Davis, owner of the Crab Hut, a distinctive stilt shack
at 1002 Bermuda Blvd. ``Now they should stick around here
The white pelicans, reaching heights of 55 to 70 inches,
summer in North Dakota and Minnesota. They usually appear
in the Tampa Bay area about October, and Palmetto Beach
residents worried this year when November arrived with no
sign of the birds.The first finally arrived about the middle
of the month. The delay could have been because of unusually
warm weather up north, said Ann Paul, Tampa Bay regional
coordinator for Audubon of Florida.Paul said she saw white
pelicans farther south of McKay in late October. ``Weather
definitely affects migration,'' she said. ```So they may
have just come in with a cold front.''
Along with most of Florida's bird populations, white pelicans
should weather the aftermath of this year's hurricanes -
Charley, Frances, Jeanne and Ivan - fairly well, Paul said.
Bird habitats weren't too messed up. White pelicans have
long, orange and pinkish bills and pouches, and they're
stunning when they spread their 50- inch wingspan. Palmetto
Beach residents understandably are awestruck, Paul said.
They're among the world's largest birds, second only to
the California condor in North America. Florida can expect
10,000 to 12,000 of these winter visitors, Paul said.
White pelicans were the subject of national news this summer
when about 27,000 birds abandoned thousands of eggs, chicks
and nests at Chase Lake National
Wildlife Refuge in North Dakota, their largest known
breeding ground in North America. Chase Lake manager Mick
Erickson said the mystery of why they left has not been
solved. He heard reports from Ontario to Colorado that the
birds simply scattered to other areas. Erickson, in Woodworth,
N.D., said he's optimistic they'll return from Florida and
other southern destinations at winter's end.
Protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, white
pelicans don't plunge into water from the air for food as
brown pelicans do. Instead,
they gently dip their heads.Three times the size of brown
pelicans, the white birds feed while they swim, scooping
food into their pouches. They also fly with their necks
tucked. Brown pelicans are more aggressive seeking food
around humans, Davis said. The whites will take food away
from the browns.She throws fish scraps into McKay Bay sparingly
``so they won't get dependent on us for food.''
White pelicans prefer shallow lakes to coastal lagoons.
In recent decades, their numbers have dropped drastically
because of pesticides, human disturbance and the draining
of wetlands.So the Audubon's Paul has a message: ``Enjoy
white pelicans while they're here.''
Reporter Janis D. Froelich can be reached at (813) 259-7143.
This story can be found at: http://news.tbo.com/news/MGB2CRCSZ1E.htm
story in the Miami Herald, Posted on Fri, Nov. 26, 2004
Wire: Storms took toll on Florida's wildlife, environment
KACZOR, Associated Press
PENSACOLA, Fla. - Fewer than 1,000 Perdido Key beach mice
probably existed before Hurricane Ivan struck Alabama and
the Florida Panhandle, but scientists are unsure how many
remain alive since the Sept. 16 storm.
They say only time will tell if the mice, found only on
the barrier island for which they are named, can survive
on beaches where storm-driven sand exposed them to predators
and buried the vegetation they feed on."We know mice
still exist." said Lorna Patrick, a biologist with
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We are seeing
tracks of mice ... but we're not seeing a lot of tracks.
There's similar uncertainly across Florida about other flora
and fauna, including such endangered species as sea turtles
and red cockaded woodpeckers, after four hurricanes ravaged
the state in August and September.
Bald eagles, brown pelicans and ospreys are among other
birds that lost nesting trees but it may be a year or so
before the full effect can be measured, said Kevin Godsea,
lead ranger at the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge
in southwest Florida. Godsea said the hurricanes also killed
some invasive plant species ...
Shoreline erosion seldom is a problem in natural environments
because beaches and dunes restore themselves over time.
"We're already starting to see progress," said
biologist Patrick. "The beach is rebuilding. The wind
is blowing and ... uncovering vegetation." The process,
however, takes years.
Officials want to complete three beach restoration or nourishment
projects in Brevard, St. Lucie and Martin counties before
the sea turtle nesting season begins, said Paden Woodruff,
environmental administrator for the state Bureau of Beaches
and Coastal Systems. Other projects also may begin soon
but some could wait for months or years depending on the
availability of contractors and funding.
"We're talking a significant impact, almost what you
would call a monumental impact," Woodruff said. "I've
never seen anything like it, and I've been here a long time."
ON THE NET
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southeast Region: http://southeast.fws.gov/
Florida Bureau of Beaches and Coastal Systems: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/beaches/
© 2004 AP Wire and wire service sources. All Rights
Cove is new attraction at Jurong Bird Park
November 2004 1626 hrs (SST)
SINGAPORE : Jurong Bird Park can now boast of having the
most comprehensive collection of pelicans in the world.
Pelican Cove, its latest attraction, was officially opened
on Saturday by Education Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
There are over 40 pelicans in the Jurong Bird Park collection,
comprising all seven pelican species.
The pelican colony is spread over 2,500 square metres of
natural habitat that features islands for the pelicans to
roost and nest.
Felled tree trunks and driftwood will also give the birds
an ideal spot to perch.
And visitors can even have a panoramic view of the pelicans
while travelling in the comfort of the air-condition monorail
Vsitors can even see how the pelicans are fed underwater
through a glass tank. - CNA
White pelican stands out in crowd
Glorious bird dwarfs brown cousin
KEVIN LOLLAR, Nov. 23, 2004
firstname.lastname@example.org In a sometimes rowdy display of plumage
Monday, thousands of birds of different feathers flocked,
squawked and fed together at the J.N. "Ding" Darling
National Wildlife Refuge.Of all that ornithological crew,
which included snowy and great white egrets; great blue,
little blue and tricolored herons; roseate spoonbills; white
ibises; blue winged teals; cormorants; wood storks and willets,
the biggest birds on the block were American white pelicans,
a group of which winters in Southwest Florida.
"You think of brown pelicans as being large,
but white pelicans are about twice as large," ranger
Kevin Godsea said. "When you see them next to a brown
pelican, the brown pelican is dwarfed."
For the record, the brown pelican weighs a maximum of 8
pounds and has a wingspan of 6 to 7 feet; the white pelican
weighs up to 16 pounds and has a wingspan of 91Ú2
feet — the same as the California condor.
Another difference between brown and white pelicans is their
feeding habits: Brown pelicans dive into the water to catch
fish, while white pelicans swim sedately along the surface
and scoop small fish into their large orange pouches. Metaphorically,
brown pelicans are kamikazes, while white pelicans are ballroom
"At the refuge, white pelicans prefer lower tides,"
Godsea said. "They're communal feeders, so they flock
together in areas where the water's not extremely deep and
leapfrog each other, scooping up fish as they go along."
White pelicans breed in central Canada, the Dakotas, Montana,
Oregon and northern California.White pelicans usually
start showing up in Southwest Florida in late October or
early November.The big birds spend the winter fattening
up on area fish — peak white pelican time is January
— and start the long flight north in late March and
Other wintering places for white pelicans are California,
Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia,
the Yucatan and Panama.
Whether the same birds return to the refuge every
year is up in the air.
"We have a good feeling that they do," Godsea
said. "We see trends: They typically arrive within
a week of the same time year after year. Also, when we do
surveys each year, their population isn't rising or falling,
so the same numbers are making it here."
White pelicans have been documented in all but a few Florida
counties, said Nancy Douglass, regional nongame biologist
for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
But life is not all fun in the sun for visiting white pelicans.
In 1998 and 1999, a large number of white pelicans died
at Lake Apopka, considered Florida's most polluted large
"It was a situation where the water management district
acquired a number of old farms, and in an attempt to provide
good wildlife habitat, they flooded old farm fields,"
Douglass said. "It was a natural process: Before they
were farms, the fields flooded annually.
"But the flooding released a bunch of chemicals stored
in the soil, and when fish-eating birds started eating fish,
they got levels of contaminants that were lethal. There
were hundreds of dead white pelicans documented. We don't
know how many were not documented."
More than a dozen white pelicans were treated at the Clinic
for Rehabilitation of Wildlife on Sanibel in 2002 with symptoms
of red tide poisoning. No one knows how many died in the
wild. White pelicans are not on state or federal lists of
endangered and potentially endangered species.
Although no systematic surveys have been done in Florida,
researchers reported 10,000 to 12,000 in the state in 1991.
"That's not a lot of birds from a population standpoint,"
Douglass said. "If all the white pelicans in the world
wintered in Florida, I'd be concerned, but when you think
of the broad range where they winter, it's not bad. "It's
like when you go to Publix and see 600 English sparrows
in one parking lot. Then you think of how many Publixes
there are in Florida."
about the American white pelican
• Scientific name: Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
• Size: Weight, 18 pounds; length, 50 inches; wingspan,
• Habitat: Lakes, marshes, estuaries and beaches
• Diet: Fish, occasionally salamanders and crayfish
• Range: Breeds from British Columbia to California
and along Texas Gulf coast; winters from central California
to Florida and Panama.
• Nesting: Female lays 1 to 6 eggs on low mound of
earth and debris.
(posted in full because of its interesting discussion
of waterbird survival in eastern Virginia.)
Pelicans, great blue herons thrive, but others are in decline
BY REX SPRINGSTON
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Thursday, November 18, 2004
beachgoers have noticed an increase over the years in brown
pelicans, big birds that glide over the surf like pterodactyls
And anyone who visits the waters of eastern Virginia has
witnessed the resurgence of the great blue heron, which
resembles a long-necked vase on stilts.
Growing numbers of water-loving birds tell an environmental
success story, right?
Not so fast.
Although some waterbirds are on the increase, a new study
finds 17 of 24 species in eastern Virginia are on the decline.
Breeding pairs of the specialized creatures, called colonial
waterbirds, dropped 16 percent between 1993 and 2003, according
to the study by the College of William and Mary's Center
for Conservation Biology.
"Sometimes it's a little dangerous to assume that because
some species are doing well, they all are," said Bryan
Watts, the center's director.
Colonial waterbirds are coastal creatures that nest together
in large colonies. They include herons, egrets, gulls, terns,
skimmers, cormorants, pelicans, and ibises. (Two well-known
waterbirds, eagles and ospreys, don't count because they
don't nest in colonies.)
Threats to the birds include the destruction of their habitats
by development, disturbances by people and their pets, and
predators that eat chicks and eggs.
The decline of so many species "sounds real significant
to me," said Charles Blem, a Virginia Commonwealth
University bird expert who was not involved in the study.
"That should get your attention."
It's natural for bird populations to rise and fall
over time, but some species appear to be suffering serious
declines, said W&M's Mitchell Byrd, a nationally known
Those troubled birds include cattle egrets (down 89 percent
during the study period), gull-billed terns (down 47 percent)
and little blue herons (down 17 percent), Byrd said.
The drops could be a sign of something out of whack in the
environment, Byrd said. "These are natural components
of the ecosystem, and if they are going down, they are going
down for a reason."
The reasons could include such things as habitat destruction
or agricultural chemicals, but no one knows for sure, Byrd
The study looked at waterbird colonies in Virginia's coastal
plain - basically the area east of Interstate 95. That includes
the eastern part of the Richmond area, Hampton Roads, much
of Southside, the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay and
Virginia's Eastern Shore and barrier islands.
For these birds of a feather, there are reasons to flock
together in breeding colonies. Youngsters can learn from
their elders how to catch fish. Lots of birds means lots
of eyes to spot a prowling raccoon, or to find fish to eat.
But the colonies also can be vulnerable. Storms and construction
projects can destroy them. And with predators such as raccoons
and foxes at high numbers - in part, because few people
hunt them for pelts these days - a large group of young
birds can be sitting ducks, so the speak.
People who frequent Henricus Historical Park, along the
James River near Chester, have witnessed the vulnerability
of a nesting colony.
A decade ago, visitors would drive up to find more than
100 big nests of sticks, which great blue herons built high
in the park's trees. Visitors watched as the birds worked
on their nests and tended to their gangling youngsters.
But a series of storms knocked down many of the trees, and
the birds moved the colony to a swamp across the James.
The number of nests at the park dropped to 56 three years
ago and to just three this spring, said John Coe, a Chesterfield
The destruction of the Henricus nests was natural, but it
saddened visitors to the park, which even held a festival
in the birds' name in the springs of 2001 and 2002.
"How do you have a Great Blue Heron Festival"
without the nests? Coe asked. (Budget restrictions also
contributed to the demise of the festival, a Chesterfield
County official said.)
An unrelated study by the National Audubon Society
recently found that nearly 30 percent of North American
bird species are in "significant decline." Causes
include the destruction of grasslands, development in wetlands,
and pollution, the study said. The report called for better
protections of wild lands and stronger pollution controls.
It also suggested people plant native shrubs to make their
back yards hospitable to wildlife.
Birds serve as indicators of environmental conditions, and
they also help the economy, Audubon said. Bird-watchers
spend at least $32 billion a year on travel, food and other
items, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In Virginia, birds help draw wildlife lovers to the economically
troubled Eastern Shore, said Laura McKay, manager of the
Virginia Coastal Program, a collaboration of state and local
governments. "They are a big eco-tourism attraction."
Scientists have studied Virginia's colonial waterbirds for
decades, but there was no comprehensive count for the entire
coastal plain until 1993, when Watts and Byrd led a tally.
To get a better handle on the birds' population shifts,
the scientists resolved to do a count every 10 years after
Led again by Watts and Byrd, scientists made more than 800
field trips by air and foot in the spring of 2003. They
counted an estimated 79,343 pairs of 24 species - a drop
of 16 percent from the 94,947 pairs they had found 10 years
Birds that nest on open barrier beaches along Virginia's
Eastern Shore suffered particularly serious declines.
Those losers included black skimmers - birds that catch
fish by dropping their long lower bills into the water as
they skim over it - and seven species of terns, graceful
birds that plunge for fish.
The main threat on the beaches is predators such as raccoons,
which eat chicks and eggs, Watts said.
As any suburbanite can tell you, Virginia has plenty of
raccoons. Few people kill them for pelts these days, and
raccoons thrive around people, eating trash and roadkill.
The destruction of wild habitats is a major problem for
waterbirds, just as it is for animals worldwide, from tigers
For example, a colony of large, white, long-necked birds
called great egrets thrived in a marshy area of Virginia
Beach for roughly 60 years.
"The property was sold, new people came in, and they
cut all the trees down," Watts said. The birds disappeared.
(Overall, the egrets increased 8 percent during the study
People come by boat with their friends and dogs to picnic
on waterbird strongholds such as the Eastern Shore's barrier
islands. That disturbs the birds, interrupts reproduction
and sometimes causes them to abandon entire colonies.
At Grandview Beach in Hampton, Watts said, "Some days
there might be 100 boats there, and there's a tern colony
right at that site."
To protect waterbirds, Watts suggested steering people away
from breeding colonies, perhaps with wardens, and stepping
up existing efforts to trap and kill raccoons and foxes
on the Eastern Shore.
While the study found declines among most waterbirds, some
exploded in numbers. Brown pelicans increased 351 percent,
and double-crested cormorants - black birds that in summer
can be seen swimming and diving in the James downtown -
went up 278 percent.
The number of great blue herons increased only slightly
during the study period, but their numbers have skyrocketed
since the 1960s, Watts said.
The increase in pelicans, cormorants and blue herons
may be due in part to the 1972 ban on DDT, said Mike Wilson,
a research biologist with W&M's conservation center.
The pesticide got in fish the birds ate and damaged their
While most waterbirds eat fish, these birds are large, which
means they ate bigger fish that contained bigger doses of
DDT, Wilson said. Therefore, the ban may have helped them
But that is only part of the story. When it comes to determining
why some birds increase in numbers and others decline, scientists
admit they don't have all the answers.
Said VCU's Blem: "We've got all the questions."
Contact Rex Springston at (804) 649-6453 or email@example.com
winners and losers
A study found that 17 of 24 species of colonial waterbirds
declined in eastern Virginia from 1993 to 2003. Overall,
the birds dropped 16 percent, from 94,947 pairs to 79,343.
• Cattle egret: down 89 percent, from 1,459 pairs
• Common tern: down 72 percent, from 6,781 pairs to
• Herring gull: down 49 percent, from 8,801 pairs
• Snowy egret: down 62 percent, from 2,329 pairs to
• Royal tern: down 54 percent, from 6,250 pairs to
• Gull-billed tern: down 47 percent, from 606
pairs to 322.
• Little blue heron: down 17 percent, from 374
pairs to 310.
• Other losers: Glossy ibis, yellow-crowned night
heron, tricolored heron, green heron, laughing gull, least
tern, Caspian tern, sandwich tern, black skimmer and Forster's
Among the species that increased in numbers:
• Brown pelican: up 351 percent, from 368 pairs
• Double-crested cormorant: up 278 percent, from
354 pairs to 1,338.
• Great black-backed gull: up 111 percent, from
514 pairs to 1,084.
• Other winners: White ibis, great egret, great
blue heron and black-crowned night heron.
Source:The College of William and Mary Center for Conservation
From Bird's-Eye View, Hurricanes Aided
By MIKE SALINERO, firstname.lastname@example.org TAMPA -
Though biologists say it is still too soon to tell, early
assessments indicate that Florida's bird population weathered
this year's four hurricanes well.
Some scientists say the extra water dumped by Charley, Jeanne,
Frances and Ivan and the rearrangement of forest habitats
could boost bird populations.
``This year in Tampa Bay, we should have adequate water
levels for wading birds,'' said Jim Rodgers, ornithologist
with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
``I'm anticipating a good number of nest starts.''
Wading birds need wooded areas covered by water. The water
provides fish for food and keeps predators away. Before
the hurricanes, water levels were low in some cypress swamps
that are home to herons, wood storks, ibises and other wading
Rodgers said the heavy rain from the storms could make 2006
a ``jackpot year,'' when animals up and down the food chain
prosper. More water means more fish. If they have all next
year to breed, fish populations will explode.
``It takes awhile for populations to grow,'' Rodgers said.
``You may have 1,000 fish in a pond by the end of one year,
but after two years you could have 5,000 fish.''
Rodgers said such a jackpot in bird food could boost the
average number of stork fledglings in a breeding season
from 1.5 per nest to two.
Gary Morse, a commission spokesman in Lakeland, said hurricanes,
floods, and forest fires are good for nature. Although some
species may suffer losses, they are usually minor.
For instance, ospreys nest on any towering structure, such
as the light poles on Interstate 4. But when the birds start
nesting again in December, Morse said, there will be fewer
on the light poles on I-4 and more in trees killed and broken
by the hurricanes.
Hurricanes are good because they clear tree canopies, get
rid of old plants and clean out lake bottoms. That makes
for better habitats for birds, fish and other wildlife.
``While some species may suffer, hurricanes, fires, floods
and droughts are necessary,'' Morse said.
Scientists say birds can sense that a big storm
is coming and ``hunker down'' farther inland where there
is more vegetative cover. Mark Cramer, who runs the Wildlife
Center in Venice, took his boat down the Peace River and
into Charlotte Harbor days after Charley hit. He rescued
13 dazed and injured birds, including eight pelicans. Only
one pelican had to be euthanized.
``I thought I'd see a lot of dead birds floating in the
water,'' Cramer said. ``They're a little more resilient
than people think.''
The damage could have been worse if the hurricane had hit
in early summer, when coastal birds usually nest. ``Charley
killed any eggs and young that were still in the nests,''
said Ann Paul, manager of Audubon's Coastal Islands Sanctuaries
program. ``But most of that was finished so it wasn't a
major disturbance for pelicans, herons, ibis, spoonbills,
black skimmers or oyster catchers.''
Eagles are the one bird species whose nesting patterns may
be seriously disrupted by the hurricanes. Scientists estimate
that half of the approximately 500 eagle nests in Florida
If the trees were also destroyed, the eagles will have to
search for another tree that is tall enough with a large,
wide- open canopy so they can see game and potential predators.
The hurricanes cut a wide swath, so homeless eagles will
have to search outside their territory.
These wandering eagles may have a hard time finding habitat
that is not already occupied by other nesting pairs.
``What we're concerned about is an increase in territorial
fights,'' said Lynda White, of Audubon's Center for Birds
of Prey. ``They will defend their territory to the death.''
Reporter Cheryl Schmidt contributed to this report. Reporter
Mike Salinero can be reached at (813) 259-8303.
may mean fewer fish in the sea
DIE-OFFS: Nobody's sure if phosphorus, increasing salt or
something else is hurting Salton species.
10:53 PM PST on Sunday, November 7, 2004
By JOAN OSTERWALDER and JENNIFER BOWLES / The Press-Enterprise
Scientists studying the sea say the salt is not driving
the present decline, although it's not helping.
Rather, they say, it appears fish are failing to rebound
from another sea phenomenon. Typically occurring under the
blistering desert sun in the late summer and early fall,
thousands and sometimes millions of fish die from a drop
in oxygen driven mostly by fertilizers entering the lake
from surrounding crops.
"The frequency and intensity of fish kills have been
such that it has just overwhelmed the species' ability to
replenish the numbers," said Jack Crayon, an associate
biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game,
which conducts quarterly fish surveys at the sea.
The high amount of salt, he said, may be affecting
reproductiive ability. "But that is an unknown,"
he said.Fish-eating birds, including endangered California
brown pelicans, have been on the decline as well, said Todd
Stefanicwildlife biologist at the Sonny Bono Salton Sea
National Wildlife Refuge. Brown and white pelicans used
to number more than 20,000 in the mid-'90s, and last year
only 700 showed up, he said. This year, the pelicans slightly
rebounded to about 3,000, he said."I don't think it's
any secret that the Salton Sea is an ecosystem on the collapse,"
Stefanic said. "The fish are just an indication of
the overall health, and it's not a good sign."
While only a handful of the 400 bird species that nest and
breed at the sea depend on the fishery -many eat insects
- Stefanic said everything is connected and one decline
could lead to another. The concern is deepened by the sea's
connection to the lengthy Pacific Flyway - it is a major
stopover for birds as they head south to Mexico or north
towards Mono Lake or Utah's Great Salt Lake.
"The collapse has not happened yet," said Kurt
Leuschner, 39, an assistant professor of natural resources
at the College of the Desert in Palm Desert, who leads birding
tours at the lake. "But I do worry about the future."
Sitting on a bench at the empty Bombay Beach Marina, local
anglers Jerry Stoneking, 54, and Michael Vance, 50, vividly
remember the Salton Sea's glory days.
"Back in the day - 20 years ago - you couldn't feed
your hook fast enough," Stoneking said, as he gazed
at the dull lake below a cloud-streaked sky.
Down at the shore, a lone seagull strutted near patches
of foam whipping in the soft, brown waves.
Stoneking believes the fish population goes up and down
in cycles and will rebound. But he doubts the good old times,
including the ubiquitous flocks of birds, will ever return.
"The pelicans used to darken the skies,"
he said, between drags on his cigarette.
Back at the Ski Inn, Bob Koger of Bombay Beach nodded as
another patron said he now fishes at nearby canals because
he's heard tales of anglers reeling in deformed fish from
"The canal is the way to go," Koger, 48, said
as he looked up at the mounted corvina, caught long ago
from the sea.
Reach Jennifer Bowles at 951-368-9548 or email@example.com.
Reach Joan Osterwalder at 760-837-4406 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Online at: http://www.pe.com/breakingnews/local/stories/PE_News_Local_salton08.583a7.html
flamingos found slain at zoo: Officials ask for public's
help in finding killers
SHEILA SMITH - H&R Staff Writer
DECATUR - Scovill Zoo staff is mourning the deaths of a
white pelican and two flamingos that were decapitated over
the weekend.The staff is devastated, said Mike Borders,
"This is the worse and most heinous act that I've seen
in 30 years at the zoo," Borders said. "And you
could tell the other flamingos were upset and nervous about
He said his staff was especially fond of the pelican,
Quincy, a unique bird with a personality. "He would
come up to you and was comical by jumping around. He would
even follow Dave Webster, assistant zoo director, around
like a puppy dog."
Borders said his staff found Quincy's body with its head
missing, which had been pulled off or cut off.
A flamingo body and head was found but did not match being
the same bird. And a second missing flamingo's body has
not been found.
The bodies of the birds had no bite marks, and a handprint
could still be seen on the Quincy's body where someone had
grabbed his feathers, Borders said.
Each flamingo is valued at $2,000 and have been part of
Scovill Zoo for the last 20 years. Quincy, the pelican,
was a bird from the wild that had been part of rehabilitation
at the zoo for the last three years. Pelicans are considered
a threatened bird and protected under the Migratory Bird
Treaty Act of 1918.
Borders said very few zoos in the Midwest keep flamingos
and pelicans and it will take a long time to replace the
"It will be a hardship on the community because the
adults and kids won't get to see them," he said. "We
are doing what we can as far as security but I don't want
the zoo to be a prison and put up barbed wire."
Park rangers are continuing to investigate and are working
with law enforcement agencies and the state attorney's office.
"With the amount of acreage of land and facilities
that we have, we can't stop vandalism," said Bill Clevenger,
executive director for the park district. "But this
is above and beyond any vandalism. The person (responsible)
will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
"It just makes me ill and I hope whoever did this is
apprehended and prosecuted," said Irene Peterson, president
of the Humane Society. "The zoo is a wonderful asset
to the community."
Reward is Offered
The Decatur Park District is asking the community's
help. If anyone has any information about the mutilation
of the birds at Scovill Zoo, they should call the park district's
office at 422-5911.
The park district is offering up to $1,000 reward for information
leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons
who committed the felony. The Humane Society of Decatur
and Macon County has added $200 to the reward fund.
Sheila Smith can be reached at sheilas@;herald-review.com
offered for dead zoo birds DECATUR, IL, Nov. 2 (UPI)
Mike Borders, zoo director, said the zoo staff has been
devastated by the deaths of the birds. The staff had been
especially fond of the pelican, Quincy, a unique bird with
a personality, reported the Decatur, (Ill.) Herald &
"This is the worse and most heinous act that I've seen
in 30 years at the zoo," Borders said. "And you
could tell the other flamingos were upset and nervous about
Both of the flamingos were valued at $2,000 and had been
at the Scovill Zoo for the last 20 years. Quincy, the pelican,
had been in the wild and had been in rehabilitation at the
zoo for the last three years. Pelicans are a threatened
bird and protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of
A reward of $1,200 has been offered for information leading
to the arrest for the decapitation of three birds at the
Scovill Zoo, in Decatur, Ill.
truth about the disappearing birds
James Woodford, November 6, 2004
Richard Kingsford recalls surveying Australia by
air in the 1980s for waterbirds, flying over flocks of ducks,
swans and pelicans so thick they were like clouds below
But nearly a quarter of a century since the NSW National
Parks and Wildlife Service embarked on its annual waterbird
count, Dr Kingsford has discovered a terrible truth: the
birds are disappearing.
Dr Kingsford, principal research scientist with the NSW
Department of Environment and Conservation, said they had
not gone elsewhere. They were dead.
Annually for the past 22 years the National Parks and Wildlife
Service has surveyed nearly 2000 wetlands across four states
and almost half the continent, ranging from alpine swamps,
coastal estuaries and ephemeral desert lakes.
The survey involves 100 hours of flying at heights of as
low as 50 metres above the waterways, counting as many as
1 million birds representing 50 different species. It is
one of the largest and longest-running wildlife surveys
in the world.
Between 1982 and 1990, following one of the worst
droughts in the nation's history, the survey team averaged
850,000 birds during each survey. In the 1990s the average
fell to 400,000. Now it is half that.
"The five lowest years we have had for waterbirds have
all occurred since 1998," Dr Kingsford said.
Drought alone did not account for such a big collapse in
the nation's waterbird numbers.
"What we are doing is imposing more and more artificial
droughts on our rivers," he said.
Of particular concern to Dr Kingsford is that the Macquarie
Marshes, one the country's icon wetlands, located north
of Dubbo, has been starved because water that would naturally
flow into the swamp is now mostly stored for irrigation.
The annual aerial survey covers nearly 30 to 40 per cent
of the Macquarie Marshes. In the 1980s the study counted
an average of 30,000 birds and up to 26 species in this
northern part of the wetland.
This fell to 7000 in the 1990s. Since 2000 it has averaged
1000 birds. And, this year the team counted fewer than 20
waterbirds of only six species.
"It wouldn't just be waterbirds that are collapsing,"
Dr Kingsford said. "We know red gums are dying. If
people were actually monitoring changes in native fish species,
other floodplain eucalypts and frogs I am quite sure the
same changes would be happening across the ecological spectrum
and over a vast area of our continent. Our past is catching
up with us in a big way."
The good news is that coastal wetlands seem to be faring
better than some inland ones.
"They still seem to be going through their boom-and-bust
periods," Dr Kingsford said.
But many of the birds seen near the ocean, such as black
swans and pelicans, began their lives in the desert, and
eventually, he fears, waterbird populations will fall in
coastal areas as well.
bird returning to California
Monday, November 01, 2004 - 12:00 AM | Jill
Fellow DAILY HERALD, Provo, Utah
After a long journey and an even longer recovery, a local
visitor was packed in a crate and driven home this weekend
-- to Sea World. Woody, a young California brown pelican
who was found and rehabilitated in Utah County, arrived
in San Diego on Friday for the last stage of his recovery.
"My baby is going to Sea World, and I couldn't be more
proud," said Patti Richards, the Utah County bird rehabilitator
who cared for Woody. "I will miss him, but letting
them go is part of the job. He belongs in his own world."
The California brown is native to the coastal regions of
California and Texas and is on both states' endangered species
lists. Only seven brown pelicans have been spotted
and documented in Utah over the past 70 years, said Paul
Grindrod, a wildlife education specialist from the Ogden
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources paid for part of
the journey to drive Woody to California this weekend. Richards
admitted him into the Sea World Bird Department on Saturday
morning. While he is healing in San Diego, Woody will live
in a large suite with a swimming pool and another pelican.
When he is ready, he will either be released in California
or moved to an educational facility along the coast.
Four months ago, when Woody was brought to Richards with
a puncture wound in his right leg, she and a local veterinarian
assumed he was a common American white pelican, which is
native to Utah.
To nurse him to health, the vet grafted skin from Woody's
belly onto his leg wound, and then Richards fed him fresh
fish, provided by a local fishery.
When Woody started following Richards around the back yard
and making his way up her back steps, she knew he needed
to be moved or he would never be released successfully.
"He was becoming really imprinted on me," she
said. "If he started thinking I was his mom, it would
be hard to get a successful release. We want the birds to
go back into the wild, but at that rate Woody would have
just shown up in my back yard."
It was in September when Woody was moved to a rehabilitation
facility at the Ogden Nature Center that specialist DaLyn
Erickson identified him as an endangered California brown.
"For the first few years of their lives the American
whites have a darker brown color, sort of like the California
brown, so people get confused fairly often," Grindrod
said. "This is a very rare thing to find this bird
here in Utah."
During his stay at the Ogden Nature Center, Woody lived
with an older American white pelican named Einstein who
was raised by humans and could not be released into the
wild. Grindrod said seeing the birds side by side made it
even more clear that they were not the same species.
"Besides the large pouched beak, they really are quite
different," he said.
Einstein and other American pelicans travel in groups along
the water and gently swoop up fish from the surface of lakes
and rivers. They have long wings for souring, bright white
feathers and a need to be social.
"I hate to say it, but I am pretty sure Einstein is
looking lonely without Woody," Grindrod said. "He
got used to having someone around that looked a bit more
like him than we do."
But Woody and other brown pelicans are not social. They
fly high over the water alone. They have short, tailored
wings that won't break when they dive bomb the ocean for
anchovies and sardines.
Richards said it took her weeks to track down any solutions
to how Woody could have ended up in Utah.
Julie Byford, a bird specialist from Sea World, said 2004
was a bad year for local pelicans in California. A large
hatch of California browns made young pelicans, who were
still unfamiliar with their surroundings, compete for enough
Hundreds of sick and starving baby birds ended up at Sea
World for rehabilitation this summer, and many others got
confused and headed east for food, Byford said.
"Confusion," she said. "That is the best
explanation. There were several of them found in Arizona
this year ... We had a load of 20 birds come from Arizona,
but unfortunately many died there too. They would dive bomb
the pavement when they thought the mirage was the ocean."
Richards said the situation in California explains Woody's
location and injuries. "The hole in his leg could be
from anything he hit when he dive bombed the sand or the
road," she said.
Not knowing Woody was an endangered bird was a plus for
Richards, she said. "I had never even been very close
to a pelican before," she said. "I would have
been nervous if I'd have known he was so special. I probably
would have had him perched up on the couch and had him watching
migration videos for crying out loud."
Richards has been a volunteer rehabilitator for the past
three years. Though she currently cares for several birds
in the back yard of her west Provo home, she and her services
will be moving to Spanish Fork in December.
The new facility will be located on five acres at 3984 S.
200 West. "It will be nice to have the space for more
birds," she said. "This work is all about the
birds, and this trip to Sea World is just one wonderful
Jill Fellow can be reached at 344-2549 or email@example.com.
This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page D1.
Daily Camera; Jeff Mitton
October 23, 2004
Whether they are soaring in graceful circles or flapping
in formation, white pelicans are easily
identified. Colorado's largest bird has a distinctive shape
and unique behaviors.
In North America, the white pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos,
is second in size only to the California condor, which has
a wingspan of up to 10 feet. White pelicans grow to slightly
over 4 feet long, with a wingspan of 91/2 feet. Golden and
bald eagles have wingspans of 6 feet.
Wingbeat frequency in birds is inversely related to wingspan.
Tiny hummingbirds flap their wings 50 to 70 times per second,
while the white pelican beats its wings 1.3 times per second.
White pelicans also soar for extended periods of time, often
circling over a reservoir.
The most distinctive trait of the white pelican is its long,
flattened bill and large throat pouch, which can hold three
gallons of water and fish. The bill, pouch, legs and feet
are orange, while the head, neck, body and most of the wings
are white. The outer primaries are black, so the tips and
trailing edges of the wings are black. While swimming or
walking, the primaries are concealed, making the bird appear
all white (see photo). During the mating season in May,
males develop a short yellow crest on the back of their
heads and a prominent fibrous plate on their upper bills.
A vertebra in the neck restricts movement, so a white pelican
cannot raise its face, and even flies with its neck tucked.
Webbing connects all five toes.
The brown pelican, a close relative of the white
pelican, searches while in flight, then plunges
into the water, mouth agape, to capture fish. The white
pelican does not dive to catch fish.
White pelicans have the habit, rare among birds, of hunting
cooperatively. Eight to 12 pelicans will form a horseshoe
formation, and swim toward shore, flapping their wings to
panic and drive their prey. In shallow water, they scoop
up water and prey and hold their bills pointing downward
to drain the water. Then they bend their entire neck to
tip the bill up, swallowing everything whole. White pelicans
most commonly eat fish, but they also take frogs and salamanders.
White pelicans breed in fresh-water lakes and marshes from
northern California and the eastern plains of Colorado to
British Columbia and Alberta. They reach sexual maturity
in their third or fourth year, and live 12 to 14 years in
natural populations. In May, two to four chalky white eggs,
almost 4 inches long, are deposited in the nest. The parents
take turns incubating the eggs, and after a month, the chicks
hatch out. Chicks demand to be fed by sticking their heads
into their parents' bills, triggering the adults to regurgitate
food into the nestlings' gaping bills.
In early fall, white pelicans head south, to overwinter
along the Gulf Coast, in Florida, in the Yucatan and other
sites in Central America as far south as Panama.
The conservation status of white pelicans is precarious,
for they depend on clean water and abundant fish in both
their breeding and overwintering sites. They are particularly
susceptible to pesticide and herbicide pollution, for when
these chemicals get into the water, they become concentrated
in fish, the primary food of pelicans. Pelicans are declining
in the northern portion of their range, particularly in
Alberta. On the eastern plains of Colorado, the proliferation
of reservoirs in the last 50 years might have increased
the number of local breeding sites.
Jeff Mitton (firstname.lastname@example.org) is chair of the Department
of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of
Copyright 2004, The Daily Camera
the hurricanes — Visitors to flock to first Coastal
October 10, 2004
By BEN RAINES, Staff Reporter
Hurricane winds knocked down thousands of trees, and storm
driven salt spray badly burned the foliage in a lot of coastal
forests, but there should still be plenty of birds around
during the first-ever Alabama Coastal Birdfest.
It appears that resident bird populations survived the hurricane
well. Clay said he suspects that native birds rode out the
"No one really knows how they survive because no one
is out there watching during a hurricane, but the birds
were everywhere right after the storm," Clay said,
"Maybe they cling to branches in the trees. Maybe the
trees break some of the wind. Maybe the branches create
some sort of eddy they can hide in. They'll take shelter.
They're not dumb."
Pelicans and gulls were wheeling over the bay as
the sun rose in Ivan's wake. Register reporters traveling
over the Interstate 10 Bayway immediately after the hurricane
reported seeing hundreds of pelicans on the elevated stretch
of roadway, all hunched together, hiding from the last significant
wind gusts by pressing up against the barrier wall.
A number of pelicans and gulls with broken wings congregated
in places, such as the mouth of Fly Creek and at the mouth
of Weeks Bay, an area also known as Pelican Point. There,
great blue herons were seen attacking the injured pelicans,
jabbing at them with sharp beaks designed for spearing fish.
Alabama's coastal region is a well documented flyway for
migrating birds. Known as the Dauphin Island Trans-Gulf
Migration Flyway, the area is cited by scientists as one
of the most important bird migration corridors in the world.
One of the country's largest hummingbird banding efforts
takes place each year on the barrier islands on either side
of the mouth of Mobile Bay.
Scientists from around the country flock to the area --
both during the spring migration, when dozens and dozens
of species touch down along Dauphin Island and the Ft. Morgan
peninsula for a first meal after a nonstop flight across
the Gulf of Mexico from Central and South America, and during
the fall migration when the same species head back south.
The migrating birds always hang around for a while in the
coastal area, either fattening up after the long trek north
or fueling up for the long flight south.
The main difference in the two seasonal migrations is that
the spring run happens in a hurry, with most of the birds
moving through over the course of just a few weeks, while
the fall migration takes months, beginning as early as July
for some species, such as purple martens.
John Porter, who runs the Dauphin Island Audubon Bird Sanctuary,
said conditions in some usual haunts frequented by migratory
birds may be a little less hospitable this year, but the
animals were beginning to show up right on schedule.
"There's just no foliage anywhere, the shell mounds
are all burned up," Porter said, as he examined a record
of the birds sighted on Dauphin Island in recent days. "But
look at that, six species of warblers seen in two minutes
on the shell mounds. Black and white warbler, magnolia warbler,
chestnut-sided warbler, prothonotary warbler, they were
all around here yesterday.
"That's just about right, about what you'd expect this
time of year. It looks like it's breaking out about like
you would expect it to in a normal year."
Clay said some birds, particularly those that rely on fruiting
trees and shrubs, might have a harder time finding food
in the aftermath of the storm. He said the insectivores,
birds that eat bugs, should do just fine, likewise for shorebirds
that gobble crustaceans and marine worms along the water's
for 2006, pelican news
here for November-December, 2005 Pelican News (with
links at the bottom of the page to the rest of 2005.)
Click here for December,
2004, pelican news
Click here for August-September,
2004 pelican news
here for July, 2004 news
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