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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

Bismark, ND wonders, Are Chase Lake pelicans arriving in Florida?

By RICHARD HINTON, Bismarck Tribune
November 30, 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 is difficult."
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 disappearance.
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 awaiting spring."
(Reach reporter Richard Hinton at 250-8256 or outdoors@bismarcktribune.ne

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White Pelicans Return to Tampa — Nov 26, 2004

By JANIS D. FROELICH, jfroelich@tampatrib.com

TAMPA - 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 until April.''

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

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Fascinating story in the Miami Herald, Posted on Fri, Nov. 26, 2004

South Wire: Storms took toll on Florida's wildlife, environment

BILL 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."

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 Reserved.

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Pelican Cove is new attraction at Jurong Bird Park

21 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 system.
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

By KEVIN LOLLAR, Nov. 23, 2004
klollar@news-press.com 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 dancers.

"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 early April.
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 lake.
"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."

Facts about the American white pelican
• Scientific name: Pelecanus erythrorhynchos
• Size: Weight, 18 pounds; length, 50 inches; wingspan, 91/2 feet
• 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.)
Waterbird woes
Pelicans, great blue herons thrive, but others are in decline

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Even occasional beachgoers have noticed an increase over the years in brown pelicans, big birds that glide over the surf like pterodactyls in formation.
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 ornithologist.
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 said.

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 County naturalist.
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 that.

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 earlier.
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 to pandas.
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 period.)
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 eggs.
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 more.
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 rspringston@timesdispatch.com

Waterbird 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. Highlights:
• Cattle egret: down 89 percent, from 1,459 pairs to 166.
• Common tern: down 72 percent, from 6,781 pairs to 1,891.
• Herring gull: down 49 percent, from 8,801 pairs to 4,521.
• Snowy egret: down 62 percent, from 2,329 pairs to 882.
• Royal tern: down 54 percent, from 6,250 pairs to 2,858.
• 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 tern.

Among the species that increased in numbers:
• Brown pelican: up 351 percent, from 368 pairs to 1,661.
• 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 Biology

Nov 12, 2004
From Bird's-Eye View, Hurricanes Aided State

By MIKE SALINERO, msalinero@tampatrib.com 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 birds.
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 were destroyed.
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.

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Fertilizer 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

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."


Disappointed fishermen
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 lake.
"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 jbowles@pe.com. Reach Joan Osterwalder at 760-837-4406 or josterwalder@pe.com.

Online at: http://www.pe.com/breakingnews/local/stories/PE_News_Local_salton08.583a7.html

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Pelican, flamingos found slain at zoo: Officials ask for public's help in finding killers

Reward offered

By 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, zoo director.

"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 what happened."

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 birds.
"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 or 421-7963.



See also: http://washingtontimes.com/upi-breaking/20041102-113711-8657r.htm

Reward 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 & Review Tuesday.

"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 what happened."
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 1918.

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.

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Terrible truth about the disappearing birds
By 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 the Cessna.
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.


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Rare 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 Nature Center.

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 food.

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 success story."

Jill Fellow can be reached at 344-2549 or jfellow@heraldextra.com.

This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page D1.

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Colorado's largest bird

The 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 (mitton@colorado.edu) is chair of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Colorado.
Copyright 2004, The Daily Camera

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After the hurricanes — Visitors to flock to first Coastal birding event

Sunday, 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 storm.
"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 edge.


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