A new Wildlife
offered for info about California Brown Pelican mutilation
Archives | Bitter
Lake, SD | Breton National Wildlife
Refuge | Chase Lake NWR count,
numbers down | Chase
Lake white pelican die-off 1, 2
| Chase Lake NWR visit scheduled
| domoic acid | Hurricane
Dennis and Florda Panhandle | Idaho
pelicans v. trout | Louisiana oil
spill 1 2(expensive)
3 4 5
| Louisiana peli. survivors released
| Monterey Bay, CA | only
the pelicans know | red tide
| Santa Barbara's Snowy
Plover chicks | Tucson, AZ pelicans
| UC Davis helps with LA oil spill
chief plans visit to Chase Lake to observe pelicans
The Associated Press - Wednesday, July 27, 2005
The chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System is slated
to tour Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge in central North
Dakota, where a mysterious mass die-off of white pelican chicks
has occurred the past two nesting seasons.
William Hartwig, refuge chief at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, will visit the refuge on Aug. 3, said Sen. Byron
"I wanted him to come out and see it personally,"
Dorgan said. "There is obviously something going on out
there that we do not understand ... we need to get to the
bottom of it."
Dorgan said he and Hartwig will meet refuge officials
and view the rookery, where only 280 chicks remain, after
some 8,000 died during the spring and early summer nesting
Last year, nearly 30,000 adult pelicans took off, leaving
their live chicks and eggs behind, confounding biologists.
Chase Lake historically has been the largest white pelican
nesting grounds in North America.
"We need to get to the bottom of it," Dorgan
said of the pelicans' exodus and chick die-off. "I don't
think we can just stand by and wait for these birds to disappear."
It would be Hartwig's first visit to the refuge since the
ornithological mystery began, said Ken Torkelson, a spokesman
for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Bismarck.
Dorgan said he secured language in the Interior Appropriations
bill on Tuesday, asking Fish and Wildlife to study the problem
at Chase Lake and report its findings by Oct. 1. The bill
now goes to the House and Senate for a final vote.
Wildlife officials have been investigating the deaths,
but Torkelson said money to study the mystery has not been
"We welcome any help we can get - and finances is what
really makes things happen," he said. "We did not
think this past year that we had the resources to do a very
By JAMES MacPHERSON Associated Press Writer
Lake pelican population stable after chick die-off
N.D, The Associated Press - Saturday, July 16, 2005
The white pelican nesting population at the Chase Lake National
Wildlife Refuge has stabilized after a die-off of thousand
of chicks, a federal Fish and Wildlife Service spokesman
"There are no new cases. No new dead birds and no new
sick chicks," spokesman Ken Torkelson said. "Whatever
affected them appears to have run its course."
Torkelson said biologists surveyed the rookery earlier Friday.
The Fish and Wildlife Service said an inspection
of the refuge a week ago indicated only about 500 chicks
left from a nesting period that could have produced as many
as 9,000 of them. The check also showed all but about 2,000
adults had left, from a population estimated at 18,850 in
Nearly 30,000 adult pelicans took off last year, leaving
live chicks and eggs behind, baffling biologists.
This year, the big birds took off after their chicks died.
Samples have been sent to the National Wildlife Health Center
in Madison, Wis., to try to find out what killed the young
birds this year at Chase Lake, the largest white pelican
rookery in North America.
Torkelson said pelican chicks at Medicine Lake National
Wildlife Refuge in northeast Montana also have suffered
a higher-than-normal mortality rate this year.
At Bitter Lake near the Waubay National Wildlife Refuge
in South Dakota, some white pelicans are showing signs of
illness, refuge manager Larry Martin said.
Conditions are crowded on the four islands in Bitter Lake
where pelicans nest, creating potential health problems,
There are about 2,500 pelicans at Bitter Lake, Martin said.
Most chicks are doing well and adults are still returning,
but problems could arise if hot weather continues, he said.
Torkelson said biologists have ruled out the West Nile virus
as the cause of the apparent illness in the pelicans in
The CLNWR pelican situation is of interest in South Africa,
too: July 25 2005: <http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=14&click_id=143&art_id=qw1122267969172R131>
Lake pelicans mostly healthy
ABERDEEN, S.D. - Some white pelicans at Bitter Lake
near the Waubay National Wildlife Refuge are showing
signs of illness, but it's far short of what's happened
at a refuge farther north, according to refuge manager Larry
At least 8,000 white pelican chicks have died in the past
two months at the Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge in
central North Dakota. The reason for the die-off is not
Conditions are crowded on the four islands in Bitter
Lake where pelicans nest, so there's bound to be some health
problems, Martin said.
There are about 2,500 pelicans at Bitter Lake, Martin said.
Most chicks are doing well and adults are still returning,
but problems could arise if hot weather continues, he said.
The pelican population at Chase Lake was estimated by the
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at 18,850 in late May.
All but 2,000 adults have left since the die-off of chicks.
The pelican colony at Chase Lake has been the largest in
North America, peaking at 35,466 birds in 2000.
Aberdeen American News, http://www.aberdeennews.com, Posted
on Fri, Jul. 15, 2005, AP
experts caring for pelicans washed out by Dennis
Fla. (AP) -- Wildlife rehabilitators across Florida are
teaming up to come to the rescue of scores of baby pelicans
that were battered and left orphaned by Hurricane Dennis
in the Florida Panhandle.
Many of the injured pelicans are being nursed back
to health at the Florida Wild Mammal Association in Wakulla
County. The facility has taken in about 150 baby pelicans
The birds are between three and twelve weeks old and can't
survive on their own. They were swept off a nesting island
by the powerful storm surge from Hurricane Dennis.
The babies were separated from their parents during the
storm and became tangled in a lot of debris and seaweed
Jill Hepple of the Florida Wild Mammal Association says
caring for the baby pelicans is very labor intensive. Rescuers
are giving fluids to the birds with a tube twice a day and
hand-feeding them fish twice more. She says some of the
sick birds need round-the-clock care.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
reports Hurricane Dennis also destroyed nesting areas for
sea turtles and the black skimmer, which is another struggling
bird species on Florida's Gulf Coast.
(Copyright 200, A.P.)
hospital takes in pelicans
Castaways lost Panhandle home to last month's hurricane
BY MARIA SONNENBERG
To help the pelicans, send your checks to Florida
Wildlife Hospital, 4560 North U.S. 1, Melbourne, FL 32935,
or use PayPal to donate online at info@Floridawildlifehospital.org.
Mention that the gift is "for the pelicans" on
To volunteer, check the hospital's Web site at www.floridawildlifehospital.org/
MELBOURNE - The occupancy rate at Florida
Wildlife Hospital would make Orlando hotels green with envy.
Just after eight otters left the hospital for their new
home in the wild, 20 baby brown pelicans checked in.
Good thing the otters had gone, because the "otter
suite," a well-apportioned enclosure complete with
water feature, actually is the sea bird cage, the only aviary
big enough to hold such a large bunch of pelicans.
The 20 castaways lost their homes when Hurricane Dennis
destroyed the rookery in Franklin County's Bird Island.
They were the lucky few. Between 700 to 1,000 chicks lived
in the 500-nest rookery. Only 100 were rescued and the rest
probably washed away in the storm.
"The parents left and the majority probably survived,
but there wasn't anything for them to come back to,"
said Sue Small, director of Florida Wildlife Hospital.
The babies were found entangled in seaweed or dazedly stumbling
over the rubble of what had once been the island's homes.
The birds range in age from eight to 12 weeks.
"They're going to be here for quite awhile while their
flight feathers grow," Small said.
Luckily for the birds, they were rescued soon after the
storm passed, and all seem in good health.
They were brought to Brevard through the efforts
of the Florida Wildlife Rehabilitators Association, a statewide
network that, after last year's storms, formed a disaster
plan to assist animal rehabbers impacted by natural disasters.
The 100 birds found were quickly distributed at wildlife
sanctuaries and hospitals throughout the state.
Whoever coined the phrase "eating like a bird"
obviously hadn't seen baby pelicans chow down. The hospital
is going through 50 pounds of fish a day.
"It takes 150 pounds of fish to raise one pelican,"
Hospital staff hopes community donations can help offset
the costs of feeding the 20 little pouched fluffballs.
"We can buy the fish wholesale and get a better price,"
Small said. "It's important to feed them one consistent
variety of fish."
In addition to donations, the hospital could use volunteers.
"We'll definitely need more people in the fall,"
Small said. "Baby squirrel season is about to start."
second mass exodus
By RICHARD HINTON, Bismarck Tribune
An estimated 16,000 or more American white pelicans
again have pulled out of Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge,
but this mass departure follows a die-off of pelican chicks.
Researchers are unsure of the cause of the chicks'
deaths, but the die-off of young birds could total 8,000 or
"We're ruling out disturbance and leaning heavily toward
disease," Ken Torkelson, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, said Tuesday. The USFWS oversees the
refuge and its pelican population.
An on-site look Friday revealed about 300 to 500 live chicks
remaining after a nesting period that had the potential to
produce as many as 9,000 over the course of the summer. However,
biologists say they believe the estimate of live chicks remaining
is likely low because tall vegetation is hampering visibility.
That same check showed about 2,000 adults remaining
from a late May population estimated at 18,850.
"When chicks die, adults have no reason to stay,"
Another on-site inspection Tuesday revealed no additional
deaths, so "whatever is claiming the birds is slowing
down," Torkelson said. Observers peered through spotting
scopes at the birds on distant islands to make that determination.
Researchers on site last week did note that the remaining
chicks are being cared for by adult pelicans.
This latest mystery follows a massive pullout last spring
in which an estimated 30,000 adults abandoned living chicks
and eggs over several weeks in late May and early June. Scientists
still don't know what prompted those adults to abruptly leave.
"We are doing our best to separate this from last year's
event when adults left behind valuable eggs and chicks,"
Although the West Nile virus hasn't been ruled out, researchers
who do checks of the pelicans said the symptoms do not mimic
West Nile. Birds stricken with the West Nile virus often stumble
around and lose their balance, Torkelson said.
Samples were collected and sent to the National Wildlife Health
Center in Madison, Wis., to determine the cause of the chick
mortality, but results aren't expected until "later this
week or next week" because the lab must do time-consuming
cultures on every sample.
There also has been a "significant" chick
die-off in the American white pelican colony at Medicine Lake
NWR in Montana, Torkelson said, and samples from
those birds likely will back up the lab even further.
Heat, rain and wind also could be factors in the Chase Lake
The Chase Lake area went through a "serious bout of wind
and rain" after the chicks had bunched up into pods.
"They didn't have parental protection, and that may have
hurt them as well," Torkelson said.
This summer's heat possibly could knock down the chicks' immune
systems, allowing disease to run through the population of
chicks when they are at their most susceptible stages.
Data from some of the eight adult pelicans that were fitted
with the satellite tracking collars this year show they are
"scattered to many parts of North Dakota," Torkelson
One pelican flew to South Dakota, turned around and came back,
and others are hanging out close to Chase Lake.
Following last year's mass disappearance, the USFWS and the
U.S. Geological Survey's Northern Prairie Wildlife Research
Center and the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, began
closer monitoring of the colony to learn more about the abandonment
of nests, eggs and newly hatched chicks.
The USFWS also restricted visitor access to the nesting areas
to reduce the risk of disturbance during the sensitive nesting
period. A barrier fence was constructed to exclude predators
such as coyotes and foxes from the peninsula colony, where
abandonment was first observed last year. Additionally, cameras
and human observers with binoculars and spotting scopes are
being used to monitor the colony.
The massive numbers of pelicans in the early 2000s forced
late arriving birds to nest on a peninsula instead of the
already filled-up islands, but the arrival of fewer pelicans
this year allowed all of the nesting to be done on only the
Surviving chicks and their parents continue to occupy all
three islands, Torkelson said.
The pelican colony at the 4,385-acre Chase Lake NWR north
of Medina has been the largest in North America, peaking at
35,466 birds in 2000 after the population was as low as 50
pelicans in the early 1900s.
The American white pelican, one of North America's largest
birds, has a wingspan of about 8 feet. They have a lifespan
of slightly more than 26 years, and they breed once a year,
with females and males taking turns caring for the young.
Typically, the mortality for young pelicans is 41 percent
Researchers had hoped a return to normalcy at Chase Lake this
year would have given them more time to study possible causes
of last year's mysterious departure.
"Unfortunately, this year's high chick mortality may
complicate that investigation. It is still entirely possible
that last year's abandonment was a quirk of nature; one of
those strange occurrences that never gets explained,"
also, A New Blow to ND Pelicans <http://www.startribune.com/stories/462/5503550.html>
pelicans go to Desert Museum
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
LARRY COPENHAVER, firstname.lastname@example.org
Three California brown pelicans are recuperating at the Arizona-Sonora
Desert Museum, swept in by winds from either Mexico or California.
The birds, caught in air currents too strong to fight, were
found between July 4 and yesterday, said Mary Powell-McConnell,
who cares for the birds.
The pelicans eventually will be shipped to SeaWorld San Diego,
which will release them into the wild. Until transportation
is arranged, museum staff cares for them, providing access
to ponds, sprinklers and plenty of smelt, a chublike fish
the museum buys frozen.
"I absolutely adore pelicans," Powell-McConnell
said. "Each one has its unique personality ... and they
perform a little, happy pelican dance after they have a full
Three more brown pelicans are known to be flying around Tucson's
urban lakes, while two have been found dead, she said. Though
their causes of death were not determined, some of the 26
wayward pelicans last monsoon season were rescued after mistaking
shimmering pavement for water and diving into the road.
The pelican plunges for its food and often dives from extraordinary
heights to catch fish, she said.
Landing in the Sonoran Desert is not that unusual for pelicans,
she noted. Already this year, the birds have landed elsewhere
in the desert, including 13 in Yuma and three in Phoenix.
Ordinarily, off-course pelicans show up at swimming pools,
water parks and urban lakes, she said. One of those reaching
Tucson last year landed in a koi pond and wiped out the owner's
When the bird was recovered, it seemed very satisfied, Powell-McConnell
said, "but these were not happy people who had the pond."
Because the birds are protected under the federal Endangered
Species Act, officials make every effort to save them.
If a bird is weak, dehydrated or even blind in one eye, it
can be rehabilitated and accepted by a zoo. However, a shattered
wing, hip or leg means a bird likely will be euthanized, she
Powell-McConnell said care and shipping are expensive, and
the public is invited to donate to the pelican fund. Call
28, 2005 02:30 PM
Surviving pelicans released following oil spill
NEW ORLEANS — Sixty-three endangered brown pelicans
that had been coated with light crude oil have been released
on an island at Breton National Wildlife Refuge following
treatment at a Venice, La. rehabilitation facility, officials
with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service said today.
The juvenile birds were among those being treated after an
oil spill was discovered to have fouled their nesting grounds
at Breton on June 13. The birds were captured and taken to
Venice, where rehab experts from around the nation converged
and began treatment in a race to save them from the deadly
effects of the oil.
Because the juvenile pelicans had yet not learned
to fly or fend for themselves, a hacking program was implemented
in which the birds were taught the skills they would need
to survive in the wild. The released birds will be monitored
to determine whether aspects of the hacking program need to
be continued on the island. Additional releases of birds from
the rehab facility are planned in the coming days and weeks.
The released birds are part of a population of approximately
260 surviving brown pelicans treated in the wake of the spill.
An additional 700 birds died either on the island, in transit
to the rehab facility, or after treatment had begun. The cause
of the spill is under investigation.
Breton National Wildlife Refuge is one of a network of refuges
across the country managed to preserve wildlife and habitat.
Portions of Breton are also designated as Class I Wilderness.
The refuge is the second-oldest in the nation, and celebrated
its 100th anniversary in 2004. http://bizneworleans.com/109+M5fea5d6d21b.html
Where did they
go? Only the pelicans know
By Ken Rogers for the Tribune
At Chase Lake National Wildlife Refuge this spring, American
white pelicans built more than 9,000 nests. That translates
into 18,850 breeding adults, a respectable number of pelicans
by anyone's standard. And that's excellent news.
The worry was that none of the pelicans would show. That something
terrible, some weird Stephen King-type thing, had happened
It's sort of like the convention and visitors bureau folks
discovering bunches of empty hotel rooms during a basketball
tournament -- kind of scary.
And there was cause to fret. Last year, nearly 28,000 birds
nesting at Chase Lake picked up and left, abandoning thousands
of unhatched eggs. The birds left no sign of why or where
they were going, or if they were coming back. No comment cards
about poor service. It was a big mystery for wildlife biologists
and newspaper readers.
It's still a mystery.
The Chase Lake birds represented the largest nesting colony
of pelicans in North America, and more than a third of all
pelicans on the continent. The nesting colony had been growing
rapidly. In the 1970s there were fewer than 10,000 birds,
and in the past seven years the number of birds has topped
In 1905, when biologists began keeping track of such
things, there were only about 50 big birds nesting at Chase
Lake. The 18,850 birds sitting on eggs this spring -- a number
based on an aerial survey of nests and a computer program
-- were then indeed welcome. The birds are a sign that things
are right with our environment. The end of the world is not
Some think the pelicans bailed out last spring because of
predators. Others feel us human beings disturbed them. And
still others think that the pelican population was self corrected,
that there were just too many birds for Chase Lake.
Part of our destiny is not to know the answers to
And so the mystery of the vanishing pelicans remains unsolved.
Davis Treating Oiled Pelicans in Louisiana
June 24, 2005
UC Davis wildlife veterinarians are continuing to treat
hundreds of young pelicans injured in a June 12 oil spill
off the coast of Louisiana. Veterinarian Michael Ziccardi
returned to campus after a week at the pelican rescue center
and was replaced by veterinarian Greg Massey, who will be
there for at least the next several weeks.
Ziccardi said he and Massey currently are trying to understand
medical complications that some of the pelicans are experiencing.
"This is something important that UC Davis brings to
the table -- our ability to investigate problems that arise
after the initial oil exposure," Ziccardi said.
Ziccardi traveled to the rescue center at Venice,
La., on June 15 and in the next several days cared for more
than 400 pelicans ages 4 to 12 weeks old. As of Thursday
(June 23), 959 birds had been collected, either living or
dead, and 268 were still alive at the rescue center.
The pelicans, which are so young they cannot fly yet, were
helpless when roughly 560 gallons of oil spilled on Sunday,
June 12, from an Amerada Hess Corp. oil platform in the
Gulf of Mexico and washed over West Breton Island, where
the birds were being raised by their parents. The company
has said that the spill seemed to be related to the effects
of tropical storm Arlene; it was discovered when crew members
who had been evacuated returned to the oil platform.
Local officials called on UC Davis and three other wildlife
organizations, including the International Bird Rescue Research
Center, a close partner of UC Davis that is based in Cordelia,
Calif.; Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research of Delaware;
and Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education of Texas.
Ziccardi, Massey and Jonna Mazet, director of the UC Davis
Wildlife Health Center, treat and study oiled wildlife around
the world. In California, they manage a chain of coastal
rescue centers and programs that are collectively called
the Oiled Wildlife Care Network. The network and wildlife
health center are programs of the UC Davis School of Veterinary
The Wildlife Health Center is dedicated to the conservation
of free-ranging wildlife through research and education.
Its 10 years of veterinary care and scientific study of
oiled birds, otters and other wildlife have established
standards and practices now used worldwide.
In January, UC Davis veterinarians cared for more than 800
birds oiled off the coast of Southern California. An additional
600 birds were known to have died in that spill; Mazet estimated
the actual number of deaths at more than 2,400.
January spill news release
International Bird Rescue Research Center
• Michael Ziccardi, Wildlife Health Center, (530)
Young pelicans play together, after being treated for oil-spill
injuries at the Venice, La., rescue center. (Jay Holcomb,
International Bird Rescue Research Center)
reminds us pelicans vulnerable
Louisiana has a special connection with pelicans. The image
of a pelican feeding its young appears on Louisiana's official
state seal. The image is an icon of selflessness, serving
as a standard of civic virtue that the state's colorful
political culture too often has ignored.
Even so, the pelican, especially the brown pelican, is part
of our community identity.
Because of that, the recent harm done to hundreds of Louisiana
brown pelicans by a small oil spill is a particularly painful
event for the state's residents.
Louisiana's brown pelican population, which once numbered
85,000, is making a comeback after suffering steep declines
in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Studies determined that
severe weather, disease and pesticides such as DDT contributed
to the birds'decline.
In 1968 and 1969, the state teamed up with Florida wildlife
officials to restock Louisiana coastal areas with pelicans
We're glad that Louisiana's pelican population has been
But the recent oil spill near Venice should remind us of
the pelicans' vulnerability to man-made environmental impacts
-- and our responsibility to protect a state treasure for
groups scramble to clean oil off pelicans
More than 400 birds dead a week after oil spill
By Amy Wold, Advocate staff writer
VENICE -- In a state crisscrossed by pipelines and dotted
with oil rigs, oil spills aren't unusual in Louisiana. But
a 560-gallon spill of light crude last week near the Breton
National Wildlife Refuge happened at the wrong place and
the wrong time for nesting pelicans on the refuge's islands.
As of Friday, 802 birds -- primarily brown pelicans -- were
affected by the oil spill. Although rescue efforts continue,
431 of the birds have died, while 371 remained alive as
of Friday afternoon.
The oil spill was discovered June 12 when workers returned
to the Amerada Hess Breton Sound 51 platform after evacuating
for Tropical Storm Arlene.
The platform is located about 60 miles southeast of New
"It's not the black, tarry oil that people have seen
in other situations," said Byron Fortier, supervisory
park ranger with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "As
you walk along the beach, you're not going to see a lot
However, the spill affected the relatively small west point
area of Breton Island, known as an important nesting site
for brown pelicans.
"It has the most significant brown pelican
nesting colony in Louisiana and one of the most significant
in the Gulf states," Fortier said. The pelicans are
nesting now, he said.
"It ended up at the worst place at the worst time,"
Fortier said about the oil spill.
Greg Beuerman, spokesman for Amerada Hess, said
the U.S. Coast Guard is in charge of the investigation into
finding a cause of the leak. He said it appears the leak
came from an overflow from a diversion tank. Both he and
Fortier agreed that the volume of the oil spill was relatively
small, but where and when that spill occurred made it significant.
In a metal building in Venice, staff from three wildlife
rescue groups, along with personnel from Amerada Hess Corp.,
and federal and state agencies are working to restore as
many of the birds as possible to health.
Plywood pens separate groups of cleaned and oiled juvenile
pelicans while at a nearby table, workers set up three metal
tubs full of soapy water as the work of cleaning the birds
Heidi Stout, oil programs director with Tri-State
Bird Rescue and Research Inc. and a doctor of veterinary
medicine, said most of the birds involved are the young
fledglings that couldn't fly well enough to escape the oil
when it came close to the island.
Stout estimated that the young birds range from 5 to 14
weeks of age. With few feathers, many of the birds look
like they've been plucked. Stout said that's the effect
of their age, not the oil itself.
Stout explained that the bird rehabilitation occurs
in steps starting with stabilizing the birds medically so
they can handle the stress of being washed and cleaned.
"These animals are wild animals. They're not used to
being in captivity," Stout said. "But, we do everything
we can to minimize the stress."
Oil can affect birds both internally and externally,
she said. On the outside, the oil can cause skin irritation,
cause the birds to lose their buoyancy, and they can drown.
Oil also can affect birds' waterproofing and ability to
maintain their body temperature.
Internally, the birds may suffer from dehydration, which
in turn can cause kidney- and liver-related problems, she
said. While they preen their feathers, the birds can also
swallow oil, which can cause problems with their throats,
stomachs and other internal organs.
In addition, because the Breton Island birds were so young
and didn't have a full growth of feathers to protect them
from the elements, their exposed skin can get sunburned.
"Sun really becomes an issue," she said.
However, that same lack of heavy feather coverage means
that the birds that are brought to the rehabilitation center
can be cleaned more easily, she said.
It's unclear when the birds will be released back to the
wild since many of them are so young and not fully capable
of flight, she said. Some of them may need to be kept in
captivity longer until they have a better chance of survival
on their own.
"The release plan hasn't been finalized yet,"
Louisiana's brown pelican population -- the state once had
about 85,000 of them -- is making a comeback after the birds
disappeared from coastal areas in the late 1950s and early
Studies determined that prolonged freezing temperatures,
hurricanes, severe storms and flooding, disease and certain
pesticides such as DDT in the environment contributed to
But in 1968, the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission
and the Florida Game and Freshwater Fish Commission joined
in a program to restock Louisiana coastal areas with pelicans
In 1968 and 1969, about 100 nestlings, the first of about
700 in all, were brought from Florida and released at nesting
colonies at the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge and at Grand
Terre Island near Queen Bess Island.
Advocate staff photo by Bill Feig <http://www.2theadvocate.com/images/061905/16604_512.jpg>
Kristine Evan, center, works Friday to scrub clean a pelican
exposed to an oil spill as Jay Holcomb, left, and Debbie
Mitchell, right, keep it steady in a bath.
pelicans die from oil spill effects
339 being treated at center in Venice, Louisiana
Saturday, June 18, 2005, St. Bernard/Plaquemines bureau
More than 450 brown pelicans, most of them too young to
fly, have died from an oil spill discovered Sunday near
Breton National Wildlife Refuge.
The cause of the small but deadly spill from an Amerada
Hess Corp. oil platform near West Breton Island has not
been determined, company spokesman Greg Beuerman said Friday.
The company coordinated the cleanup and wildlife rescue
Beuerman said 339 pelicans were alive and being treated
Friday afternoon at a rehabilitation center set up in Venice.
Efforts to capture oiled birds began Tuesday. Of
the 802 birds taken from the island, 463 died, he said.
Beuerman said 47 trained professional wildlife rehabilitators
and veterinarians were working at the Venice center.
"The physical washing and cleansing process" of
the birds has begun, he said. Beuerman said the rehabilitation
would continue for as long as needed.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service supervisory ranger
Byron Fortier said that likely will include teaching young
birds how to fish once they are able to fly.
"I learned today . . . they will have to establish
some sort of ponds or pools with fish. They say adult pelicans
will be attracted, and more or less model fishing for the
young," he said.
The impact on Louisiana's brown pelican population is unclear.
Brown pelicans are listed as an endangered species in the
Research biologist Thomas Michot of the National Wetlands
Research Center in Lafayette said he had just conducted
a nest count at West Breton Island last week.
On June 8, there were 1,300 brown pelican nests,
1,500 royal tern nests, 1,600 laughing gull nests, 750 Caspian
tern nests and 40 sandwich tern nests at the island, totaling
5,190 pairs of nesting birds, Michot said.
Fortier said that, except for the pelicans, only a few birds
at the island were found with oil on them. The
island apparently was overwashed with oil and water during
Tropical Storm Arlene, he said.
The storm moved through the Gulf of Mexico and onto shore
just west of Pensacola, Fla., on June 11.
He said adult pelicans had started to return to the island
by Friday and to resume normal parenting behavior, and that
some juvenile pelicans had been left there because they
had no oil or little oil on them.
"The decision was made, rather than disrupt the colony
by going to retrieve (those) birds, that they would be better
off left there."
Beuerman said that a total of 13 barrels of oil spilled,
and four to six barrels were recovered. Because it was a
light crude, some evaporated "at a fairly significant
rate," he said.
The cleanup is nearly complete, Beuerman said. Fortier said
some workers are cleaning oil in the marshy part of the
island by hand with absorbent pads.
. . . . . . .
Sandra Barbier can be reached at email@example.com
or (504) 826-3836.
Collision of Louisiana icons, pelicans
and oil, sets rescuers in motion
Thursday, June 16, 2005
By Sandra Barbier; St. Bernard/Plaquemines bureau
Hundreds of young brown pelicans covered with a
mixture of downy feathers and crude oil stood in pens inside
a Venice warehouse Wednesday, where the delicate process
of bathing the birds is expected to begin today as part
of an attempt to save them.
They are some of the estimated 1,000 pelicans contaminated
by an oil spill in Breton Sound. Wildlife rescuers have
captured about 450 oiled brown pelicans since Tuesday at
West Breton Island, part of the Breton National Wildlife
In recent years, the island has been the state's largest
brown pelican nesting area, and officials said the spill
occurred during the height of the nesting season.
About 120 of the rescued birds died, either before they
reached the dock or overnight Tuesday, said Byron Fortier,
supervisory ranger for the Southeast Louisiana National
Fortier said there are other dead pelicans at West Breton
Island, but an estimate was not available.
The Coast Guard estimated that as many as 1,000 birds have
been contaminated by the spill.
About 560 gallons of oil leaked from an Amerada Hess Corp.
oil platform about 2 1⁄2 miles west of the island,
company spokesman Jay Wilson said.
Wilson said the leak was discovered Sunday morning by workers
returning to the well after being evacuated for Tropical
Storm Arlene. The cause of the leak had not been determined,
The company notified the national oil spill response center,
which notifies the Coast Guard and other agencies, Coast
Guard spokeswoman Lt. Commander Cheri Ben-Iesau said.
Wilson said the company began cleanup efforts immediately
and had a skimmer boat and surveillance helicopter at the
site Sunday afternoon.
"We thought things were beginning to look good"
Monday, he said, but that was when U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service agents discovered oil had got to the island and
Experts were called in from three national oiled bird rescue
organizations, and a rehabilitation center was set up at
United States Environmental Services LLC in Venice.
There, birds were tagged, photographed and given
a dose of electrolytes as they were brought in to help stabilize
them before the oil could be removed, Fortier said.
"Otherwise, washing can shock them and kill them,"
A series of baths, with a mild solution of water and dishwashing
liquid, are used to dissolve and remove the oil, then the
birds are placed under warm air dryers.
Fortier said about 50 percent of birds usually survive after
being rescued. "There are a lot of variables,"
such as how much oil the birds ingest and how quickly they
are given help, he said.
Because of their age, many of the oiled birds will be hand-raised
in captivity for weeks, he said. They won't be released
until they are able to fly and to fish for themselves.
"They will hold them at an as yet to be determined
facility in the Venice area," he said.
As rescuers captured birds Wednesday, others were
becoming oiled when they moved into the marsh, he said.
"The birds use it as a water source," Fortier
Workers were planning to erect a fence around the marshy
part of the island to try to keep birds from going into
oiled grass, Fortier said.
Cleaning up that oil will be the next phase of the operation
after the birds are gathered, he said.
"I don't know how long that is going to take,"
Biologists are hopeful the birds will have time
to re-establish their nests and raise more chicks on the
island this summer. Nesting lasts up to three months, U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Charlotte Parker said.
Last year, West Breton Island reached a high of about 7,000
brown pelican nests and had a total of 9,000 nests for the
nesting season, Parker said.
But about 45 percent of the island was destroyed in the
fall by Hurricane Ivan, and there were fewer nests this
year, she said.
Sandra Barbier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
or (504) 826-3836.
on Thu, Jun. 16, 2005
Saving birds is expensive,
VENICE, La - Throughout the day Wednesday, deliveries of
oiled brown pelicans and white pelicans were transported
from West Breton Island to this seaside community for cleanup
and medical treatment.
Feathers of the birds, saved from the oily waters of Breton
Sound, poke out of air holes in the boxes as rehabilitation
workers remove them for cleanup.
Tropical Storm Arlene caused 15 barrels of light-grade oil
to spill from an Amerada Hess offshore oil platform southeast
of New Orleans. The spill was discovered Sunday and is estimated
to have oiled at least 1,000 birds at the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife refuge at West Breton Island. Of the nearly 600
recovered from the island, 124 have died during rescue.
For the wildlife rehabilitation crews, saving the
birds is a race against time. To save them, workers must
feed and medicate the birds before washing away the slick
coat of black oil on their feathers and bills. All this
must be done before effects of dehydration, skin irritation
and other problems related to contamination take their toll.
The brown pelicans, placed on the endangered species list
after pesticide contamination reduced their population in
the 1950s and 1960s, were the most affected victims.
The United States Environmental Services, LLC building along
the highway became a hub for bird cleanup. The building's
large warehouse was converted into a maze of plywood cubicles
where birds were medically stabilized and gently cleaned
feather by feather with Dawn dish soap. Large fans drowned
out the sound of squawking pelicans and circulated air faintly
smelling of the soap and oil.
"The challenge that any oiled animal faces
is first whatever environmental condition that is going
on at the time," said Heidi Stout, a veterinarian and
Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research's oil program director.
"It's very hot, which is a challenge for any animal.
There is a tremendous amount of effort put into the capture
of the animal and bringing them back... It takes tremendous
manpower, resources and veterinary, construction and hot
water supplies to treat these animals and that's difficult
to do in a remote situation, so we're located here where
it is centralized."
The long-term rehabilitation could take several weeks, as
workers identify and monitor more birds. Wildlife rehabilitation
workers say one of the biggest challenges to saving these
birds has been keeping them cool.
"The flip side of this is that usually birds
cannot keep themselves warm when they have oil on their
feathers, but in this heat these animals cannot keep themselves
cool," Stout said.
Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research, a nonprofit organization
based in Delaware, is one of three groups working to stabilize
and rehabilitate pelicans affected by the spill.
On Tuesday, Houston-based Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education
was in Venice to clean the birds. Today, California-based
International Bird Rescue and Research will be working to
do the same.
Stout said oil contamination on birds can lead to severe
skin irritation dehydration. If ingested, the oil causes
problems in the birds' GI tract, liver and kidneys, Stout
The pelicans rescued Wednesday were mostly juvenile brown
pelicans. Because the juveniles have shorter feathers, they
are more likely to suffer skin irritation and get oil in
A preliminary estimate of 400 birds dead had been released
but no hard numbers on the number of birds that have died
has been established.
"There are birds dead on the island, but we
do not have a hard count," said Byron Fortier, U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service supervisory park ranger.
On Tuesday, 90 of more than 250 birds removed from the island
died, said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Cheri Ben-Iesnu. On the
island, Coast Guard officials have coordinated environmental
cleanup and wildlife rescue.
Coast Guard Commanding Officer Frank M. Paskewich said substantial
progress was made in the last few days in cleaning the oil
spill and saving wildlife. Cleanup crews are now working
with absorbent pads to remove the light-grade crude.
Frontier said the next step is cleaning deposits of oil
on the land and near the nesting areas. A company called
Polaris, a group of science advisers to private companies,
is working with Amerada Hess and is scheduled to be on the
island today to evaluate cleanup on land.
West Benton Island, which celebrated its centennial last
year, is the second oldest wildlife refuge and its rookery
is the largest brown pelican refuge in the state. Hurricane
Ivan reduced the size of the small island, which has restricted
access by air and water.
launched after deadly oil spill
400 pelicans killed in Breton Sound
Wednesday, June 15, 2005, by Mark Schleifstein, The Times-Picayune
Officials from several federal
and state agencies scrambled on Tuesday to deal with a small
but deadly oil spill in Breton Sound that is blamed for
killing at least 400 brown pelicans and oiling 1,000 more
at a rookery on West Breton Island. (NB: This
is America's second oldest wildlife refuge, protected in
1904, home to three endangered and threatened species: Brown
Pelican, Least Tern, and Piping Plover. For info on the
refuge, visit the US Fish & Wildlife site: <http://www.fws.gov/breton/>)
Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research, a nonprofit organization,
is setting up a "bird city" in Venice, where oiled
birds will be washed and allowed to recuperate, possibly
for as long as 18 weeks, said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Cheri
A bird veterinary team from the University of California-Davis
also is en route to the area to help. Amerada Hess has set
up a command center in Slidell to coordinate efforts of
federal, state and cleanup contractors, Ben-Iesau said.
A group of 75 people is expected on the site today, up from
60 Tuesday, she said.
Ben-Iesau said the oil spill was discovered Sunday morning
when workers returned to Amerada Hess' Breton Sound 51 Platform,
which had been evacuated in advance of Tropical Storm Arlene.
The platform is about 60 miles southeast of New Orleans.
The company estimated about 560 gallons, or about
15 barrels, of oil had leaked from a piece of equipment
on the platform. A team of Fish & Wildlife Service and
Coast Guard officials conducting surveillance around the
spill later that day discovered that some of the oil washed
onto West Breton Island, covering shoreline and marsh grasses
in addition to the birds.
The rookery, which is in Breton National Wildlife Refuge,
has been a linchpin in a successful 20-year effort to rebuild
the state's brown pelican population, which was decimated
by the use of pesticides like DDT in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator's Office, the Coast
Guard and other agencies are overseeing the cleanup of the
spill. Amerada Hess has hired three companies to do the
The Coast Guard was tracking the spilled oil from the air,
and its Marine Safety Office New Orleans is investigating
the cause of the release.
. . . . . . .
Mark Schleifstein can be reached at email@example.com
or (504) 826-3327.
15, 2005 01:17 PM
Nearly 100 pelicans dead in Breton Island oil spill
NEW ORLEANS — The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, and Amerada Hess Corp. are working together
today to cleanup an oil spill and recover impacted wildlife
at a rookery on West Breton Island near the mouth of the
More than 75 people are on scene to recover the
released oil and to aid in the recovery of the affected
wildlife. Containment boom and absorbent pads have been
deployed on site and the Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research,
the Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education, and the International
Bird Rescue Research Center have established a rehabilitation
site in Venice to care for oiled birds.
Workers recovered 281 brown pelicans, 90 of these birds
have died. Officials expect to recover another 600 birds
today. Initial reports indicate 400 to 1,000 birds have
"We are deeply concerned about this unfortunate incident
and we are taking all possible steps to respond," said
Gerald Bresnick, vice president, Environment, Health and
Safety for Amerada Hess. "We will continue to work
closely with all federal and state agencies to mitigate
this situation as quickly as possible."
A restricted zone has been established for aircraft and
vessels; aircraft are not permitted within five miles of
the site and vessels within two miles.
The U.S. Coast Guard was notified of the oil spill Sunday
morning when workers returned to an Amerada Hess operated
platform that was evacuated in advance of Tropical Storm
Arlene. An estimated 560 gallons of oil was released.
The incident is under investigation.
Return to N.D.'s Chase Lake
By JAMES MacPHERSON, Associated Press Writer, June 18, 2005
CHASE LAKE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, N.D.
Marsha Sovada, a biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey's
Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, said the adult
pelicans are "acting perfectly normal -- just as they
were before last year's event."
Long-range video surveillance cameras and extra crews are
monitoring the pelicans, and fences and signs have been installed
to keep out predators and people.
Medina, a town of about 330 people about 15 miles south of
Chase Lake, has an image of a pelican painted on its water
Bradley Moser, the city operations manager, said the pelicans'
disappearance last year has lured more bird watchers to the
area this year.
He said it's easy to spot pelicans as they fly from the refuge
searching for food. One had to be shooed out of town, for
fear it may have snapped at a child, he said.
"Everything seems back to normal, by George,"
Moser said. "They're back and wandering around all over.
And they look healthier this year -- their feathers seem brighter."
count more than 18,000 white pelicans at Chase Lake
James MacPherson, Associated Press
BISMARCK, N.D, Jun. 10, 2005, Biologists have counted more
than 18,000 adult white pelicans at the Chase Lake National
Wildlife Refuge, a year after thousands of them mysteriously
Dave Bolin, a refuge manager at Chase Lake, in central
North Dakota, said Friday that an aerial survey showed 18,850
breeding adults and 9,425 nests. Biologists estimate two
adults per nest.
The survey was taken the day after Memorial Day.
To come up with the numbers released Friday, the biologists
hand-counted the dots on photographs taken in the survey.
Nearly 28,000 birds mysteriously abandoned the refuge last
summer. Biologists say they may never know why.
They have suggested it might have been due to some kind
of disturbance or predator at the nesting grounds, or a
natural process of dealing with overpopulation.
"Maybe under the current set of conditions, Chase Lake
can't support 30,000 pelicans," said Ken Torkelson,
a spokesman for the federal Fish and Wildlife Service. Others
believe predators may be to blame, he said.
"There is certainly some division, and we haven't been
able to rule out either the natural correction or the disturbance
theory," he said.
Before last summer's exodus, the 4,385-acre Chase Lake refuge
in central North Dakota had been known as the home of the
largest nesting colony of white pelicans in North America.
The big birds weigh up to 20 pounds, with a wingspan of
nearly 10 feet, measuring six feet from bill to tail.
The refuge population of white pelicans never reached
the 10,000 mark during the 1970s, and it has exceeded 20,000
birds only since 1998, Torkelson said. The birds now have
returned from their wintering grounds on the Gulf Coast
"Everybody close to this issue is encouraged by the
way things are going there," Torkelson said. "We
have 18,850 American white pelicans doing what they normally
PELICANS THRIVE; CUTTHROAT DWINDLE
Jun 8, 2005
It's a tale of two species - one thriving, while another
is slowly disappearing. It's a problem that has wildlife
biologists baffled and searching for answers. We traveled
to Soda Springs, to an area on the Blackfoot River, for
a look at how these two species are responding very differently
to changes within the same environment.
Fish and Game has turned off their fish trap. This year,
they caught only 14 cutthroat trout. Fisheries Biologist
Dave Teuscher says a primary reason is the drought.
"As the fish migrate up to the Blackfoot River to spawn,
a lot of them are unsuccessful because the tributaries that
they normally have good success in, they don't have good
success in, and so less juvenile production, very difficult
for the fish to even migrate out of the reservoir."
But while one species is floundering, another is
soaring high. In 2001, nearly 5,000 cutthroat were trapped.
Since then, their numbers have plummeted. Meanwhile, pelican
numbers have gone from near obscurity to 1,400 pelican nests
counted this year on Gull Island.
"That's incredible, that expansion. Why that's
happened, we really don't know for sure. What we do know
is drought is a good thing for pelicans, because their primary
food source is fish and when those reservoirs recede, that
shallow water is how they feed."
Teuscher says you can't draw causation from the pelicans,
but the fact remains, there isn't a viable population of
cutthroat in this area. So what now?
"The first option - wait and see for another year or
two and see if they can respond. Hopefully, we will get
the same kind of spring we had this year and they can rebound
on their own. If that doesn't happen, if we don't see that
in the next year or two, then we'll have to take steps -
either go to a hatchery program, go with another stock of
fish. And I guess there's always the 'do nothing' option,
but I don't think that the sportsmen of Idaho would go with
Earlier this year, Fish and Game placed bird lines across
the Blackfoot River to protect fish from pelicans. Teuscher
says that experiment worked based on two factors. First,
they took about half the fish they caught from the trap
and placed them into the reservoir to see if they could
swim back to the trap. All but one did. The second, the
Utah sucker fish population jumped from about 1,000 caught
in past years to four or five times that this year.
pelicans swoop into bay in search of a meal
June 7, Santa Cruz — California brown pelicans
have returned to the Monterey Bay, wowing beachcombers with
acrobatic divebombs to snag shimmery fish.
Onlookers have reported the birds up and down the Santa
Cruz County coast. Many say a fresh fish dinner is probably
bringing them in.
The pelican has been on the federal Endangered Species Act
list since 1970.
"There’s a school of bait in the bay," most
likely anchovies, Gilda Stagnaro said from behind the counter
at Gilda’s Family Restaurant on the Municipal Wharf.
A member of a longtime fishing family, Stagnaro recalled
when pelicans sunned themselves on the wharf, and when visitors
to the Sport Fisher coffee shop in the 1960s fed the birds
crackers out the window.
Pelicans rarely visit the wharf anymore, Stagnaro said;
the ones spotted recently are the first she’s seen
Some years, she said, schools of bait fish are so big they
attract not just pelicans, but four different types of gulls
and sea lions, too.
"Sometimes the water is churning with all of them,"
Professor Jim Harvey at Moss Landing Marine Lab agreed the
birds have probably stopped in for a bite to eat.
This year has been late as far as productivity in the ocean,
Harvey said, noting the number of juvenile rockfish appears
to be especially low.
"A lot of seabirds are suffering from lack
of food," he said, and these feathered friends are
probably in search of it.
They’re in luck. As ocean upwelling kicks in, Harvey
said — meaning warmer water is drawn away from the
shore and replaced by colder water below — more food
for birds should arrive, too.
Contact Genevieve Bookwalter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
June 05, 2005
Worst 'red tide' in years strikes South Bay wildlife
Experts say algae bloom and its rusty aftereffect are killing
shallow-water fish but not sea lions -- or humans. (And
there have been no reports of pelicans or other seabirds
affected, as of 6/5, — pelicanlife.org.)
By Scott Martindale
One of the worst "red tides" to hit the Los Angeles
County coastline in recent years has left boat cleaners
without work, swimmers stranded on beaches and scads of
Red tide, a naturally occurring ocean phenomenon, is caused
by excessive growth of algae, which turns the water brownish-red
about once a year. Since it showed up May 28, red tide has
kept many beachgoers confined to the sand and made it impossible
for divers who clean the underside of boats to see through
the murky waters.
The overabundance of algae also contributed to the
deaths of hundreds of fish in King Harbor Marina in Redondo
Beach on Wednesday. The fish, starved of oxygen, floated
to the surface and left a rancid smell in the air for days.
"The smell was so bad that I had to stay inside,"
said Frankie Greco, 29, of Lomita, who spent Wednesday night
in his boat docked at the marina. "I shut all the windows
and doors and lit some candles."
The rapid growth of red algae in recent weeks has
caused ocean bacteria, which feed on the tiny plants as
they die, to multiply exponentially. As the bacteria use
up limited supplies of oxygen in shallow waters such as
King Harbor Marina's, many smaller fish such as garibaldi
and red sea bass suffocate.
"If you're a fish living in the harbor, you're out
of luck," said Giancarlo Cetrulo, director of the Los
Angeles Conservation Corps' S.E.A. Lab in Redondo Beach.
Although the dead fish -- easy prey for seagulls and crabs
-- were all eaten by Friday, the red tide might not clear
Michael Aaker, dockmaster at King Harbor Marina, said this
year's red tides were among the worst he has ever seen.
"This is the first time I've seen it kill so many fish,"
said Aaker, who has worked at the marina for 15 years.
Despite the off-putting color of the ocean water, the algae
are not dangerous to humans.
The red tide phenomenon also has been implicated
in the recent deaths of beached sea lions, but experts say
a separate act of nature is at work.
At least eight sea lions have been poisoned by a brain toxin
-- domoic acid -- produced by algae; these algae, however,
are different from those that cause red tide, said Peter
Wallerstein, a marine rescuer for the Whale Rescue Team.
The algae killing the sea lions are eaten by fish,
which pass the poison up the food chain to the sea lions.
The toxin leads to seizures and paralysis in sea lions,
while the fish are unaffected.
The simultaneous appearance of the red algae and the sea
lion-killing algae is coincidental.
look points to fewer pelicans
By RICHARD HINTON, Bismarck Tribune, June 4, 2005
Although a hard count still is being crunched, Chase Lake
National Wildlife Refuge's population of American white pelicans
appears to be down from recent record highs of more than 30,000
"We pretty much confirmed what we were seeing from the
ground. You can tell they are down a little bit from the boom
years," said Dave Bolin, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
operations specialist at the refuge northwest of Medina. "We
haven't compiled a count yet, so I'm reluctant to throw out
Bolin, the USFWS representative conducting a pelican nest
count during a Tuesday aerial census, also flew the 2003 and
2004 Chase Lake pelican censuses.
"There weren't as many as the first time I did it (in
2003) when we had the boom years," he said by telephone
Friday from the refuge. "When I flew in 2004, they already
had started their abandonment."
That mysterious disappearance of Chase Lake's estimated
30,000 adult pelicans last spring is one reason the large,
white migratory birds remain the center of so much attention
this spring after they returned to their longtime nesting
The adult pelicans, which pulled out of Chase Lake over several
weeks, abandoned chicks and eggs last spring, leaving puzzled
scientists sorting through a maze of possible explanations.
The pelicans, which in the past had nested on three islands
and a peninsula at Chase Lake, have avoided the peninsula
so far this year.
"The islands look close to what they had in the past,
but that's just off the top of my head," Bolin said.
"The missing nests on the mainland north shore really
cut down on the numbers."
The 2003 census counted 6,000 nests on the peninsula, Bolin
said. Each nest represents two adult, breeding pelicans. Total
nests counted in that 2003 census were 14,747, putting the
breeding adult population at 29,494.
Tuesday morning's flight, which originated out of Jamestown,
took about an hour, Bolin said.
"We try to fly over (the nests) as quickly as we can,
creating the least disturbance as possible," Bolin said.
"As flights go, it's about as easy as it gets."
Bolin photographed the nesting grounds as the plane passed
over the pelicans, which seemed to be at ease with the buzzing
"I didn't see any type of disturbance with the birds,"
Worried about possibly spooking the pelicans, the observers
have been extremely careful about not disturbing the pelicans
this spring. They have used spotting scopes positioned on
the mainland to check on the birds. When they wanted closer
looks, they paddled to the islands in a canoe rather than
using a motorized boat.
The weather was good for Tuesday morning's flight, Bolin said.
"There was a high ceiling and little overcast. The wind
was minimal and not a factor. It was a pretty good flight."
U.S. Geological Survey staffers at the Northern Prairie Wildlife
Research Center in Jamestown are doing the counting, using
a computer program. In the past, summer employees at the refuge
sorted through aerial photographs and counted all of the black
dots, which represent individual nests.
Not only do the computer and program have to be set up, but
there have to be trial runs to make sure the program's estimates
are accurate, Bolin said.
Chase Lake's pelican population has hovered near the 30,000
mark since a record high of 17,733 nests were counted in 2000.
Those numbers made the Chase Lake pelican colony the
largest in North America.
And that high pelican density may be one reason that the pelicans
pulled out last year.
Biologists favor a "natural correction"
theory for why the pelicans abandoned their nests, Bolin said.
"There was a surplus population for the carrying capacity
(of the nesting sites)," Bolin explained. "Whether
it was the food supply or the cold, wet spring, somehow the
birds thought in their best interests that it was time to
(Reach reporter Richard Hinton at 250-8256 or email@example.com.)
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