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Brown Pelicans Are Off the Endangered Species List

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Whale Watching | Birds

Thursday, February 18, 2010


But they're still not in the clear!

When we go out on our daily cruises, we see a large variety of birds. A good chunk of the birds are brown pelicans. They are such an incredible animal to watch hunt as they’re the bird that does a nosedive right into the water at crazy speeds. They were on the endangered species list until just recently, but that doesn’t mean they’re in the clear just yet.

Back in the 1960’s the brown pelican population started to decline rapidly due to the pesticide DDT. If you’ve never heard of DDT, it’s a pesticide that was used to control the mosquito populations. The DDT was washing into the oceans via the run-off waters and worked its way up the food chain. Eventually it accumulated into the pelican’s system and caused their eggs to crack prematurely. They were literally on the brink of extinction. Thankfully a marine biologist was able to track the problem back onto land and to the DDT being used. DDT was then banned and slowly the pelicans have made a recovery. In November 2009, they were officially taken off the Endangered Species List.

Although this is great news, the pelicans are still having a very difficult time. Of course right after they’re taken off the list bad things start happening. As it turns out, 1000’s of pelicans have been washing up. The rescue facilities up and down all of California, and even into Oregon, are completely filled with pelicans. A lot of them are starving and scientists aren’t sure why. They think it might have to do with the El Niño year bringing all of the warm water causing the small fish that pelicans eat to leave for cooler waters.

Another problem has to do with some harmful residue that’s all over their feathers. It’s possible that with all of the recent storms that the run-off with all the pollution and chemicals are causing algal blooms that are causing this harmful residue. This prevents the pelican’s feathers from doing their job and keeping the bird warm and dry.

Thankfully if the pelicans are rescued soon enough, they can be washed at rescue centers and fed enough to get them released in about two weeks. Unfortunately, this is very costly for the rescue centers. Hopefully they’ll get enough funding!

As for now, all we can do is keep a close eye on the pelicans and make sure our trash doesn’t get into the water! Hopefully they’ll be able to ride this El Niño year out and stay healthy for future years. If you’re interested in seeing these majestic birds while searching for whales, join us on one of our many trips!

Brown Pelicans Are Off the Endangered Species List
A brown pelican stretches on the docks before we leave for a whale watch. You can see the pouch stretching that is used to gulp up the fish.  | Kera Mathes
Brown Pelicans Are Off the Endangered Species List
A brown pelican rests while floating in the water.  | Kera Mathes
Brown Pelicans Are Off the Endangered Species List
A brown pelican takes off in flight after hanging out on the water.  | Kera Mathes

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