Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

December 10, 2017

Patient of Week: Injured American White Pelican Making Great Progress!

After treatment: Much happier White Pelican living outside and able to eat on his own.

We’ve got some good news: The severely injured American White Pelican rescued in Orange County last month is making great progress! This bird was spotted with a terrible bill fracture at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine a few weeks ago. On top of the bill fracture, the poor bird had several neck wounds and a double triple hook fishing lure in his foot.

Injured American White Pelican was spotted first in Irvine, CA. Photo by Sandrine Biziaux-Scherson

The injured bird was originally spotted at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine, CA by members of the local Sea and Sage Audubon Society. Even with its severe injuries, the Pelican was flighted and evaded capture.

Just before Thanksgiving the pelican was spotted in the driveway of a home in Newport Beach. After Newport Beach Police was contacted, Animal Control Officer Nick Ott responded and was able to capture the frightened bird. It was brought to Wetlands and Wildlife in Huntington Beach and then transferred to our Los Angeles Wildlife Center.

We found the bird to be anemic and emaciated, and he had problems maintaining his body temperature. His lower bill fracture was causing his mouth to not fit together correctly, and was at high risk of becoming a compound fracture any minute, which would have lowered his chances of successful treatment dramatically. A characteristic fish hook hole in the tip of his lower bill pointed a finger at the cause of the injury. Dr. Rebecca Duerr, Bird Rescue’s staff veterinarian, said “The poor bird probably hooked his mouth trying to get the double treble hook out of his foot, and broke his bill while ripping the hook out of his mouth.”

Juvenile pelican mandibles are very flexible soft bone, which complicates pinning surgery. This bird’s mandible was fractured not only across the mandible but also was split longitudinally, making the whole front half of the left side very wiggly and unstable. Our vet is hoping the fixator style she chose does the trick.

We are happy to report that after a few weeks of intensive care and surgery, he has become much stronger and is able to live in an outdoor aviary. He’s put on more than a kilogram of weight and has a seemingly-bottomless appetite for what’s on the menu!

Intake: American White Pelican being examined by International Bird Rescue staff Julie Skoglund and Kylie Clatterbuck. Note bruising and crease at the fractured area of the lower jaw.

American White Pelicans, as you can see from the photos, are very large birds. Their wingspan can easily reach 8-10 feet. They are one of the heaviest flying birds in the world, reaching an average weight of 11 to 20 pounds.

Very loooong body: This bird is so long we needed an extension on the surgery table while working on his mouth. Center Manager Kylie Clatterbuck is keeping the pelican comfortably anesthetized right before his bill was pinned.

We would like to thank Sea and Sage Audubon Society, the Newport Beach Animal Control and our colleagues at Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center of Huntington Beach for their heroic efforts. We have high hopes things will continue to go well for this bird, and will let our colleagues know when a release is planned, to give this lucky bird a proper sendoff.

The fix: Top view, left, of the mandible after the 1st half of the external fixator was applied. Note the ugly wound at the tip of the bill where the fish hook dug a gouge. Right, Mandible radiograph after pins and external fixator were placed.

3 Responses to “Patient of Week: Injured American White Pelican Making Great Progress!”

  1. Diana B Says:

    Will the fixator remain in place permanently, or is it to be removed when the injury (hopefully) heals?

  2. Bird-Rescue Says:

    Diana: After healing the fixator on the Pelican’s bill will be removed.

  3. Loretta B Robinson Says:

    God Bless you for the treatment and care you are giving this young Pelican. He is very fortunate to have been rescued and brought to your facility.

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