Thursday, November 12, 2009

Brown Pelican Delisted from Endangered List

DSC02474 Brown Pelicans

Yesterday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially removed the Brown Pelican (Pelicanus occidentalis) from the endangered species list of the federal register after being on the list since 1970. They were almost completely wiped out due to habitat loss, hunting, and pesticides like DDT and dieldrin. The pesticides caused the pelican eggshells to be so thin that they were not viable. Their numbers plummeted down to 10,000. Louisiana, known as the Pelican State, had no pelicans left and there were only a few nesting pairs left in its neighboring state Texas. The government’s ban on the use of DDT in 1972 helped restore the population to its current thriving population.

Though the smallest of the pelican family, it is still an impressively large bird with an average wing-span of 6-8 feet (2-2½ meters), and weighing in at 6-12 pounds (3-5½ kg).

There are five subspecies:
P. o. californicus (California Brown Pelican)
P. o. carolinensis (Eastern Brown Pelican)
P. o. occidentalis (Caribbean Brown Pelican)
P. o. murphy (Pacific Brown Pelican)
P. o. urinator (Galápagos Brown Pelican)

Galápagos Brown Pelican

My family and I were most fortunate to see brown pelicans nesting during our trip to the Galápagos Islands in 2007. There are about a dozen nests on this beachfront hillside…

DSC01029 Galapagos Brown Pelican nests

…with a million dollar view of the Pacific Ocean which they shared with the Galápagos Fur Seals:

DSC00994 Galapagos seals

These two nest mates got the penthouse:

DSC01005 Two Galapagos Brown Pelicans in nest

As most animals we encountered in the Galápagos Islands, they were completely unperturbed by our presence. Touching was strictly forbidden but we were allowed to approach an animal provided we did not change their behavior:

DSC01027 Galapagos Brown Pelican

They have a transparent third eyelid called the nictitating membrane:

DSC01009 Galapagos Brown Pelican nictitating membrane

The juveniles were brown all over. This one was drying his wings in his nest:

DSC01026 Galapagos Brown Pelican in Nest

California Brown Pelican

Last month, I went to Carmel with my book club for our annual Fall Adventure. We went kayaking in the Elkhorn Slough and saw this flock of white-headed adults and immature all-brown pelicans quietly resting on this rock.

DSC02476 Brown Pelicans

They didn’t seem to mind sharing the space with cormorants:

DSC02477 Brown Pelicans and Cormorants

The weather was perfect for kayaking and wing-drying:

DSC02485 Brown Pelican drying wings

Let’s hear three cheers for the Brown Pelicans because they beat the odds. Their removal from the endangered species list is a great tribute to the conservationists who fought to protect their habitat and create legislation banning the pesticides that harmed these beautiful birds.


margie said...

way to make a comeback!!

Tammie Lee said...

you have some wonderful pelican images. Such great fun to see them nesting as well. Even though I lived around them in S.Ca. I never saw where they nest.
Thank you for the tip about jpg mag. I am not familiar with the site but will take a peak.

Gel said...

OMG- Those pelican shots are precious! I'm always happy to hear when animals are no longer endangered. (Love the seal photos, too!)

ramblingwoods said...

What a fantastic series of photos for the bird me..

Ruth said...

Three cheers for Dutchbaby and her pelican photos!!

Red Shoes said...

How beautiful, and ungainly. Can you imagine being a pelican's mother?

I love them.

Unknown said...

I didn't know they had been endangered. You have a nice collection of Pelican photos here! Beautiful!

Jeannette StG said...

Thanks for the beautiful pics of these pelicans. One of my friends lives at ocean front, and i took some pics there, only I couldn't come as close to the pelicans on the rocks.
1972 - wow, it took that long to not become endangered anymore! We people sometimes reak (spelling?) havoc with nature in our pursuit to "clean up" things.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear margie,
Pretty nice to have some good news once in a while, isn't it?

Dear Tammie Lee,
I had never seen pelican nests until I saw them in the Galapagos Islands.

I hope your beautiful photos do well in JPEG magazine; I think they will.

Dear Gel,
Thanks! It was one of those magical afternoons when the lighting was just so.

Dear ramblingwoods,
I'm so glad you enjoyed them.

Dear Ruth,
Why thanks!

Dear Red Shoes,
I can't imagine setting up house in a house of twigs and branches. Even though my loved one brought these branches to me, one by one, as tokens of affection.

Dear lisaschaos,
I frankly didn't know it either until I heard it on the news this week.

Dear jeannette stgermain,
I only got close to them at the Galapagos Islands, where all the animals we saw were not conditioned to fear man.

I think the spelling you're looking for is "wreak".

Relyn Lawson said...

Isn't it so exciting what people can accomplish when we decide to work together and show compassion?

Dutchbaby said...

So true, Relyn!

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