Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Blue-Banded Pelicans

August 19, 2013

Tips on the Banded Pelican Sighting Contest

A67 - Alps
Photo of Pelican A67 by Bernardo Alps

If you’re participating in this year’s Banded Pelican Sighting Contest along the west coast, here are some sighting clues that could bring you one step closer to winning a spotting scope from our friends at Eagle Optics

It looks like a good year for Brown Pelicans along the coastline of the western U.S. Thousands are being seen feeding on schooling fish such as sardines and anchovies. Many of these are first-year birds just learning how to feed. Our Blue-Banded Pelicans that were rehabilitated at our centers in California also are among these flocks of birds.

Clues on where to find Blue-Banded Pelicans:

• Look on breakwaters or anywhere pelicans roost in harbors. Also, check out fish-processing areas.

Pelican C13, photo by Bill Steinkamp

Pelican C13, photo by Bill Steinkamp

• Many Blue-Banded Pelicans are being seen in Washington state and Oregon at several locations, including the town of Westport, where they hang out on the breakwaters, or in Astoria on the breakwater.

• On the central California coast, we have received many reports from Dinosaur Rocks at Pismo Beach where pelicans hang out.

• Another California tip: Monterey harbor and Pillar Point Marina in Half Moon Bay are ideal locations for pelicans to roost and feed. These make for excellent Blue-Banded Pelican spotting sights.

Good luck!

August 6, 2013

Behind the scenes with a Brown Pelican in Dawn’s “The Big Picture”

The latest episode in Dawn Saves Wildlife’s “The Big Picture,” shown above, features several Brown Pelicans filmed at our Los Angeles wildlife care center in May, including Pelican V01, which arrived at International Bird Rescue facing a common predicament: fish oil contamination.

Fish oil contamination occurs when pelicans attempt to retrieve scraps at commercial and public fish-processing sites along the coast. As a result, these animals can easily become covered in oily fish waste, losing their natural waterproofing ability in the process. This can result in hypothermia and death.

Pelican V01 with fish oil contamination (left) and after undergoing a wash

If an oiled pelican can still fly but is unable to feed in cold water, the bird may become a dumpster diver and beggar in order to secure a meal. That’s what we assumed happened to Pelican V01. It was surviving by feeding on scraps and trash in the dumpsters of San Pedro, Calif.

Bernardo Alps, who won last year’s Blue-Banded Pelican Sighting Contest, spotted this pelican and noticed it was very dirty and displaying abnormal behavior. Upon capture, the bird was found to be covered with fish oil and oily waste, which we successfully removed in the wash process using Dawn.

We had seen this bird before, but for other human-caused reasons. In 2006, the pelican was treated at our Los Angeles center for injuries sustained from fishing line entanglement. Seven years later, we fitted this pelican with a blue band (you guessed it: #V01) to better track its post-rehabilitation travels.


Below, we filmed the pelican’s release at Cabrillo Beach Park near our center.

The educational message from this episode of “The Big Picture” is as timeless as it is important: Please don’t feed wildlife.

Though pelicans were removed from the Endangered Species List in 2009, one of our most beloved seabirds continues to face myriad human-caused problems every day. Check out some of these issues in graphic designer Franzi Müller’s Protect Our Pelicans infographic below (click on the image for a printable download). And find out how you can enter our second-annual Blue-Banded Pelican Sighting Contest now underway. You could win an Eagle Optics scope!

Infographic designed by Franzi Müller (click on the image for full-size)

June 8, 2013

The Pelican Brief: Stories of Survivability

P20 has been sighted multiple times in Southern California

P20 has been sighted multiple times in Southern California

Sightings of our banded rehabilitated pelicans are always informative, bringing us new clues about their travels and survivability in the wild. Here are a few recent stories from the pelican sighting files.

Pelican P20 and young birds on the fringe of their range

Why do pelicans become habituated to piers, fisherman and fishing areas?

Brown Pelicans are predators, and young pelicans have to learn quickly how to catch their prey (fish) in order to survive. It’s trial-and-error at first, but while they are learning to hunt and care for themselves they create what is called a mental and behavioral “tool kit.” This tool kit consists of all the techniques and strategies they have discovered that produce fish. Watching the activities of fish-eating mammals such as dolphins and whales is a learned behavior. Following fishing boats back into port after a day’s catch, learning how to watch tides and observing where other fish-eating birds are foraging are all techniques learned that help localize a meal.

Young pelicans are very impressionable during their first year because they don’t have a great fear of people. Have you ever watched fishermen casting their lines from a pier? You will see them reeling in lines with wiggling, sparkling fish. Pelicans and other birds are opportunistic and think that any wiggling fish coming out of the water is theirs for the taking. Piers loaded with fishermen hauling in multiple fish on multiple lines attract pelicans and become feeding grounds for pelicans who don’t know better. They learn quickly that people + piers = food. This becomes another usable tactic in their took kit, but it’s a dangerous one that can also lead to injuries from getting hooked or tangled in fishing line.

Like P20, young pelicans that become habituated to people and fishing piers are at a great disadvantage. This is why we always say, “NEVER FEED PELICANS” or any wild animal. Feeding can produce very unhappy endings for these pelicans that are not able to discern a well-meaning fisherman from one who wants no part of a pelican stealing his or her catch. Follow P20’s movement down the California coastline via this Google Map

View Brown Pelican P20’s Movement in a larger map

M32 Brown Pelican is demonstrating the similar exploratory nature of young birds.

 M32 is demonstrating the similar exploratory nature of young birds.


Brown Pelican M32

Like California Brown Pelicans R36 and R41 that migrated to Victoria, B. C. last fall, M32 is demonstrating the similar exploratory nature of young birds born into a viable population that sometimes move to the fringe of their range in search of food and good habitat. In some cases this works for them, but often these birds die or retreat to safer and more food-abundant areas within their range. R36 did not fly south when the weather turned very cold in Victoria when R41 and the other adult pelicans in the area left. R36 would have died in the cold had it not been rescued. M32 seems to have found a niche in the northern inland part of the San Francisco Bay, representing a young pelican on the fringe of its territory.

Pelican 0938-61101

A friend of IBR and last year’s Blue-Banded Pelican Contest adult winner, Bernardo Alps, spotted pelican 0938-61101 hanging out at the dumpsters at the Ports O’ Call Marketplace in San Pedro, Calif. He noticed this bird was very dirty and not behaving normally. The pelican was captured and found to be covered with fish oil and oily waste from a fish-processing site. Once at our San Pedro center, it was washed to remove the oiling and now has an excellent chance of survival.

Fish oil contamination occurs when pelicans feed at commercial and public fish-processing sites. They can easily become covered in oily fish waste and water as they try to retrieve fish scraps. Dirty feathers from fish oil make the birds wet and cold just like any other oil does. When an oily pelican that is no longer waterproof attempts to plunge feed into the ocean for fish, it’s at risk of cold water reaching its skin, which can result in hypothermia. If an oiled pelican can still fly but is unable to feed in cold water, the bird may become a dumpster diver and beggar, as this is its only way to safely secure a meal and avoid becoming too cold. That’s what we assumed happened to pelican 0938-61101. It was staying alive by feeding in the Ports O’ Call dumpsters on fish scraps and other trash.

Pelican 0938-61101 was previously treated in our San Pedro center in November 2006 for injuries sustained from fishing line. Seven years after her first release from care, this bird will soon be flying freely again sporting a new silver federal band and a highly visible blue plastic band on her leg to track her further travels.

0938-61101: Dirty Brown Pelican coated in fish oil, left, and after cleaning, right, at our Los Angeles Center.

0938-61101: Dirty Brown Pelican coated in fish oil, left, and after cleaning, right, at our Los Angeles Center.

Update, June 13:

Upon successful rehabilitation, a previously fish-oiled Brown Pelican was released Wednesday in the San Pedro area. Photos of the bird and the release below at Cabrillo Beach by Julie Skoglund. 

This pelican first came into our San Pedro center on 11/2/2006 as a first-year bird with fishing tackle injuries. Since its release, it has been reported two other times in San Pedro on 12/18/2008 and on 1/2/2013. Captured fish-oiled on 5/5/13, the bird was rehabilitated and released on 6/12/13. Its new band number is now V01.










May 9, 2013

The Pelican Aviary Project is now underway

Pelican,-White-02-MA few months ago, we launched the Pelican Aviary Project, our first foray into the world of online crowdfunding via Indiegogo. With a big help from both our local supporters and pelican enthusiasts from Hawaii to Norway, we raised over $16,000 for a new aviary at the San Francisco Bay Oiled Bird Care and Education Center in Fairfield, Calif. (Click here for a list of aviary supporters who helped us surpass our original 15K goal.)

Why do we need this project?

Several years ago, we built a large aviary for rehabilitating injured aquatic species such as pelicans. The enclosure was constructed to the highest standards possible with the funding we had at the time. But with the ever-increasing number of pelicans coming to us, we need to do some major renovations. Price tag: an estimated $45,000.

We’ve received generous support from the Solano County Fish and Wildlife Propagation Fund, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network … and you!

And we’re excited to report that we’ve broken ground for the new and improved aviary. Pelicans being treated at this facility were recently transported to our Los Angeles center to complete their rehabilitation while renovations are underway.

Here’s an update from San Francisco Bay center manager Michelle Bellizzi:

With the help of truly amazing people — including every staff member, our interns, every volunteer, as well as our neighbors at Solano County Roofing, Hudson Excavation and D&T Fiberglass — our pelican aviary prep work is complete, and we are now just waiting for the concrete work to begin. A few days early, no less!

Among the tasks our intrepid team has completed:

-Dug trenches for relocating the electrical outlets
-Mowed and cleaned the yard to make way for equipment
-Moved filters and pumps
-Moved two 35 foot-by-10 foot fiberglass pools

All of this work and more is in addition to taking care of birds, building duckling boxes, repairing our other aviaries, cleaning the center and preparing it for “busy season.”

Here are some photos of the project and the team at work:


Pelican Aviary2

Pelican Aviary 1


Pelican Aviary Reconstruction May 2013

Pelican Aviary Reconstruction May 2013


These amazing local businesses were on hand for their expertise:

Hudson Excavation donated both time and materials toward helping us remove the west fence to provide access for the contractors. Our California Department of Fish and Wildlife volunteers finished the job.

D&T Fiberglass disassembled the pools in addition to staying for several hours to help us move the pools.

Solano County Roofing not only donated a forklift to help us, but also donated their time and brought in “The Big Gun” — a giant, all-terrain behemoth with 12-foot forks. This came in handy when the forklift was not quite as effective as we’d hoped. The Big Gun, expert driver and our makeshift crew were able to move all four pool halves in one-tenth the time it would have taken our crew alone, with about one-tenth the blood, sweat and tears.

In the coming weeks we’ll keep you posted on our progress. Thanks!

Brown Pelican-Bill Steinkamp

Brown Pelican photo (above) and American White Pelican photo (top) by Bill Steinkamp.

April 22, 2013

Pelican release at Terranea Resort, Earth Day weekend 2013

During this past winter, a number of California Brown Pelicans were reported to have traveled well north of their usual habitat – British Columbia, to be exact.

Several of these birds settled in Victoria’s inner harbour, and three were found to have parasites, frostbite, and in the case of one pelican, wounds that may have been from fishing hook injuries.

After weeks of planning and the securing of appropriate permits, the birds were flown south via commercial jet cargo to International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles wildlife care center, which is equipped with the large aviaries necessary to successfully treat aquatic birds of this size. These pelicans were released at Terranea Resort in nearby Rancho Palos Verdes on April 20, 2013.

Photos and video by Bill Steinkamp. Music by Wired Ant. View the full-size video here.


Find out how you can get involved with pelicans through our Pelican Partner program.

April 9, 2013

In care at our Los Angeles center: The international pelican trio


Last week, International Bird Rescue’s Los Angeles center received a trio of international patients: three Brown Pelicans that had been in the care of Wild ARC and several fellow animal organizations in British Columbia.

Via the Victoria Times-Colonist:

They missed spring break in Malibu, but three brown pelicans will finally head south today after undergoing treatment at the Wild Animal Rehabilitation Centre in Metchosin.

Two of the birds were left behind by a flock of about 15 adults and juveniles that hit Greater Victoria in early December, hanging out in the Inner Harbour and getting fed by members of the public.

While most eventually migrated, one male and one female were too weak to make the trip.

They had frostbite on their feet and parasites and were generally in poor condition when rescued by the B.C. SPCA’s Wild ARC in January.

The third bird was found in Tofino in early December. She had parasites and head wounds, possibly inflicted by a predator.

(Read the full article here.)

Given International Bird Rescue’s expertise in the care of pelicans and other aquatic birds, animal caregivers decided the birds would be best served at our facilities.

Upon arrival on an Air Canada flight from Vancouver to Los Angeles last week, the birds were taken to IBR’s facility in San Pedro. Staff rehabilitation technician Kylie Clatterbuck reports that overall, the pelicans are doing well in our large aviary: One of these juvenile birds is already flying perch to perch (the full length of the enclosure) and the others are getting very good lift and flying the length of the aviary pool. All three will undergo comprehensive flight conditioning before they evaluated for release.

Thanks to the team at Wild ARC and to Pacific Coastal Airlines for donating the flight from Victoria to Vancouver. These animals will be featured on an upcoming wildlife show, we’ll give you the details as soon as we have them!

Photos courtesy Kylie Clatterbuck

BRPE1-Kylie Clatterbuck



March 7, 2013

Pelican with fish hook injuries

Each year, International Bird Rescue’s rehabilitation centers in California treat hundreds of Brown Pelicans. About 40% of these birds brought to us suffer from fishing tackle-related injuries.

Here, our Los Angeles center staff remove multiple hooks from an adult pelican. (Viewer discretion is advised.)

We depend upon your support to help these birds. Find out more at birdrescue.org/donate.


February 28, 2013

The Pelican Aviary Project — We’ve met our target! What’s next?

Our heartfelt thanks to the more than 150 donors who have supported our Pelican Aviary Project on Indiegogo. Today, we met our target goal of $15,000.

Here, the San Francisco Bay center team gives us a video update on why this project is so needed. Special thanks to Cheryl Reynolds, Suzie Kosina, Martha Grimson and Kat Schecter for filming this video in the aviary.

What’s next, you might ask?

We’ll be in touch in the near future to give you the very latest on our renovations of the pelican aviary that you have helped to build. And you can always follow allfillthebill2news and views from International Bird Rescue at birdrescue.org.

Our Indiegogo fundraiser met its goal only halfway into the 45-day campaign. Technically, there are three weeks still left in this fundraiser. And in fact, many highly successful Indiegogo campaigns continue to raise funds.

For the remainder of the time that International Bird Rescue is featured on Indiegogo, we’re going to graduate to a “Fill the Bill” campaign to raise money for the astronomical fish bills we receive when the center is full of pelicans. The average pelican eats about $10 in fish per day as it recovers at our center.

If you’ve already donated, you’ve done your job, so take a bow! But if you haven’t yet gotten the chance to do so, or if you’d like to pass this campaign on to other bird lovers, we of course welcome your support. Every single donation from here on out will help us feed those ravenous pelicans that are sure to fill our centers this summer.

Best of all, we still have plenty of premium gifts to give out for Fill the Bill donations.

With deepest gratitude,

Team International Bird Rescue

PS-For those who chose thank-you gifts with their donations, we’re sending those out full steam! Keep an eye on your mailbox.

Pelican watercolor by David Scheirer


January 30, 2013

Blue-Banded Pelicans in Flight


When people report banded pelican sightings, they often photograph them and generously share these images with us. There’s nothing like watching pelicans soar through the air, whether high above in formation or with the tips of their wings nearly touching the waves. Looking like gentle and graceful dinosaurs, they’re mesmerizing to watch. We wanted to share a few of these recent images with you along with their stories. Enjoy!


On July 28, 2012, Michael Ayers was visiting San Francisco and spent some time at the famous Cliff House, adjacent to the equally famous Bird Rock — a roosting spot for many seabirds and sea lions. Michael noticed some pelicans flying overhead, one with a blue band, and snapped some photos (see above). When he returned home and looked at his images, he saw two blue-banded juvenile pelicans. They were M87 and M91, and both had just been released hours earlier at Ft. Baker on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge – about five miles as the pelican flies from where the pictures were taken. Both of these birds came into our San Francisco Bay Area rehabilitation center on July 5 and were thin and weak, something we see often with these young birds trying to make it in their first year of life.


On December 5, 2012, Kristin McCleery, who by boat looks for changes in bird activity around the San Francisco Bay Bridge, noticed that one of the Brown Pelicans flying by had a blue band on, and took a few photographs as well. That bird was P11, a first-year pelican that came into our San Francisco Bay Area center on November 5 with a few injuries and in generally poor shape. It was rehabilitated and released on November 19 at Ft. Baker. Check out this close-up of a healthy-looking P11 flying by Kristin, 17 days after its release.

Pelican, Brn C34 Flying - Steinkamp 1
Meanwhile, in Southern California C34 is a beautiful adult Brown Pelican and one of our most famous birds. This bird came to our Los Angeles center on October 13, 2009 with fishing tackle injuries. It was rehabilitated and released in San Pedro on November 6, 2009 and spends most of its time at the Redondo Beach Pier where it hangs out and gets fed fish scraps. It has been reported over 25 times to us since its release. This image of the bird flying over the water was taken last month by Bill Steinkamp, one of our volunteer photographers. We strongly discourage the feeding of pelicans or any wildlife, as it habituates them to humans and makes them more vulnerable to fishing tackle injuries. C34 is very capable of caring for itself but it loves the fish scraps from fishermen.

Pelican T77 came into our Los Angeles center weak and thin on November 25, 2012. We regularly get these skinny and weak adult pelicans, and even though we test them for many possible problems, we sometimes cannot really detect what is wrong with them. We rehydrate and feed them and get them back to a healthy state, and once they pass their release evaluation, they are returned to the wild. After over a month of care at our center, T77 was released on December 31, 2012 in San Pedro. Last week, 21 days after its release, this photograph was taken of T77 from the deck of the Monterey Bay Aquarium by Byron Chin. Our data indicate that many of our birds move quickly up and down the coastline, and within days of release they can be hundreds of miles away from where they were released.

Have you seen a Blue-Banded Pelican? You can report your sighting here. We’d love to hear from you.

January 29, 2013

Is your organization a Pelican Partner? Redbud Audubon Society is!

Our daily “thank you!” goes to the good people at Redbud Audubon Society in Lake County, a dependable Pelican Partner of our San Francisco Bay Area center in Pelican Partner -Redbud AudubonCordelia. This Audubon chapter partnered up with pelican #P38, which came to us contaminated and thin from San Francisco’s Pier 39. While in care, the bird was washed, given proper nutrition and treated for minor wounds prior to release.

What’s a Pelican Partner? Starting at just $500, your organization will have the pleasure of a VIP tour at one of our California centers, an official certificate of your sponsorship (see an example here to the right) and a unique pelican release experience — a moving experience by any measure.

This program is a wonderful way for your company or organization to give back to local wildlife in need.

Want to find out more? Visit our Pelican Partner webpage.

International Bird Rescue volunteer Jeff Robinson gives Redbud Audubon Society’s Carol Lincoln a tour of the San Francisco Bay Area center. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds.

P38’s blue band and federal bands. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds.

p38-Cheryl Reynolds
P38’s release evaluation. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds.

Pelican release-Jeff Robinson1
Carol Lincoln’s pelican release of P38 and a fellow Blue-Banded Pelican. Photo by Jeff Robinson.

January 6, 2013

Blue-Banded Pelican Contest: We have a winner!


Adult Contest Winner: Bernardo Alps

Our first Blue-Banded Pelican Sighting Contest has come to a close. Thanks to everyone who participated and helped us gather more information by reporting a Blue-Banded Pelican. International Bird Rescue is one of the few wildlife rehabilitation organizations that incorporates post-release evaluation as part of our rehabilitation program. To better track Brown Pelicans and gather more information about them after release, we began placing highly visible plastic blue bands on their legs in 2009.

Our contest began on November 2, 2012 and ended on January 2, 2013. During this time 116 Blue Banded Pelicans were seen in the wild and reported. Since the program began, approximately 1,050 rehabilitated brown pelicans have received blue bands and to date, 403 individual sightings have been reported.

Our contest was a great success! The adult category winner — the individual who has spotted the most blue-banded Brown Pelicans, has won a pair of Eagle Optics 8X42 Ranger ED Binoculars generously donated by Eagle Optics and will also receive an honorary International Bird Rescue Pelican Partnership, which includes a tour of one of our California wildlife care centers and a pelican release experience.

Our adult category winner is…Bernardo Alps! Bernardo Alps’ passion for marine mammals and seabirds takes him on or near the ocean at every opportunity. He is a Seabird Field Technician for PRBO Conservation Science, conducting seabird and marine mammal foraging studies along the Palos Verdes Peninsula, and a Research Associate with the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, conducting bird surveys at Cabrillo Beach. He lives in San Pedro with his wife Diane, their pets.

Kaia-250px 2

Youth Contest Winner: Kaia Barth

Bernardo is an avid wildlife photographer and writer and social media consultant. Some of his work can be seen at photocetus.com. He loves to share his passion for the environment and does so as a volunteer naturalist with the Cabrillo Whalewatch program and on various whale watching and birding trips. He also volunteers with animal care at the Marine Mammal Care Center at Fort MacArthur.

Bernardo likes to contribute opportunistic wildlife sighting data. He is an avid user of eBird, contributes ID photos of cetaceans to various catalogs and reports tagged and banded birds whenever possible. He also often delivers many oiled and injured birds to International Bird Rescue and other rescue facilities. Bernardo’s favorite bird is the Brown Pelican.

The youth winner (18 and under) who has spotted the most banded Brown Pelicans wins a pair of Eagle Optics 8X42 Shrike Binoculars also donated by Eagle Optics. This individual and their family also become honorary Pelican Partners and get a private tour and release of their banded pelican.

Our youth contest winner is … Kaia Barth! Kaia and her mother, Deanna, have spotted many pelicans and rescued many in need of care. International Bird Rescue is very grateful for their efforts. Kaia has helped her mom pick up fishing line and trash at local beaches and has gone on several rescues with her. Kaia was recently presented with a Certificate of Recognition by WildRescue.

Congratulations to both of our contest winners!

The top three Blue-Banded Pelican photo submissions for 2012 have also been determined. The first, second and third place prize winners will each receive an International Bird Rescue T-shirt and a copy of the award-winning HBO documentary Saving Pelican 895, which chronicled our work in the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Winning photographs are posted on our website and will be included in our online pelican yearbook that will be launched this year.


Photo Contest 1st Place Winner: Deanna Barth

First Placeis awarded to Deanna Barth for her photo of Pelican C84

Second Place is awarded to Dave Weeshoff for his photo of Pelican S11

Third Place is awarded to Julie Matsuura for her photo of Pelican T36

See all the winning photos here

Congratulations to all our photo contest winners and contributors!

While this contest has ended, reporting and compiling data on these incredible birds is ongoing at International Bird Rescue. Keep your eyes open for a pelican with a blue band on its leg and let us know when and where you see one! Also, please check our website, blog, Twitter, and Facebook pages often for updates on sightings, current information and upcoming details for our next contest.

December 17, 2012

A Pelican Survives Over a Decade After Rehabilitation

Photo from International Bird Rescue archives

In 2001, we responded to an oil spill in the Dominguez Channel at the Port of Los Angeles. The spill was relatively small, and we captured only 13 oiled birds: one gull, two domestic ducks and 10 Brown Pelicans.

Inset photo: WildRescue founder Rebecca Dmytryk with an oiled pelican. Map courtesy Google Maps.

Most of the pelicans we had to bait in with fish scraps in order to capture (this is the only time we ever feed pelicans in the wild). Three of the pelicans unfortunately had to be euthanized due to previous injuries, but seven oiled and rehabilitated pelicans were released on January 10, 2001 in nearby San Pedro.

On November 22, 2012, we received confirmation that one of those pelicans, 0559-28561, was found dead near Oyehut in Washington state’s Grays Harbor County. Like an oiled King Eider that we had rehabilitated 16 years ago that was hunted earlier this year in Alaska (the hunter returned its federal band), this pelican band recovery is equally important. The pelican lived for over 10 years after its rehabilitation, adding more evidence to the ever-growing data that we collect regarding the survival of oiled rehabilitated birds.

Have you seen a Blue-Banded Pelican? Report your sighting here.

December 9, 2012

Blue-Banded Pelican Contest: Clue #4

Photo by Bill Steinkamp

In last week’s clue for our current Blue-Banded Pelican Sighting Contest, we talked about pelicans commonly found on sandbars in bays or at the mouths of rivers. (What’s this contest all about? Click on the link above to find out.)

So here’s clue #4, and it’s an easier place to spot them: Go to any of the harbors where there are fishing boats, piers or anything to do with fish. Some of the best places to see pelicans (and possibly encounter Blue-Banded Pelicans) are Fisherman’s Wharf Monterey, Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, and all the wharfs and piers in Bodega Bay and elsewhere in Northern California. (Blue-Banded Pelican K15 is called the “Mascot of the Pacifica Pier” by some people because he hangs out there.)

In the L.A. area, the Redondo Pier and many others along the Southern California coast are also good bets.

In Washington, some of our banded pelicans have been seen in Westport at the boat docks. If you’re in Oregon, they’ve been spotted in places like Brookings at fish-cleaning stations on many docks.

Many of the Blue-Banded Pelicans that have been reported this year to us have been seen in these areas. Check them out!

Below, you’ll find all three previous clues for this contest, which ends in early January. Thanks to Eagle Optics for providing the grand-prize binoculars!

Clue #1

Clue #2

Clue #3


Photo by Julie Matsuura

November 26, 2012

Blue-Banded Pelican Sightings, from British Columbia to Baja California

Blue-Banded Pelicans R41 (top, photo by Rosemary Bishop) and R36 (bottom, photo by Mike Robinson).

Since the launch of our Blue-Banded Pelican Sighting Contest, we’ve been receiving reports of banded pelicans every week. All of these sightings are important and interesting, but a few recent ones have stood out.

R41 and R36 (shown above) are both first-year birds that came into our San Francisco Bay Area wildlife care center in July. R36 had fishing tackle injuries, and R41 was heavily contaminated with fish oil from one of the public fish-processing stations in Bodega Bay. Both were rehabilitated and released at Ft. Baker under the Golden Gate Bridge on August 23.

These birds were just reported separately, but with other pelicans, in Victoria, British Columbia, about 900 miles north of the Bay Area. R36 was first seen on November 18, 87 days after its release, at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve in Victoria. R41 was seen on November 22, 91 days post-release, at Ogden Point in Victoria.

R36 and R41 have traveled the farthest north of any banded pelicans that we have had sightings on thus far, and both were reported as healthy and normal-acting as seen in these photos.

Not all of these rehabilitated birds survive. On October 29, T20, a first-year bird that had suffered fishing tackle injuries and was treated at our Los Angeles facility, was found dead near Las Bombas in Baja California, Mexico, 42 days after its release and nearly 600 miles from its release site in San Pedro near the Port of Los Angeles. Although the reporting of a dead banded bird is always unsettling, it’s nevertheless important information for this project. T20 recovered from its rehabilitation and clearly headed hundreds of miles south.

It’s sometimes thought that young birds coming into our care with fishing tackle injuries are just pier bums, begging for fish scraps and getting into trouble. But that is not always the rule. Begging for free fish and stealing from fishermen is something that many pelicans, both young and adult, do because they’re opportunistic. T20, like many other young pelicans, was no exception to the rule and likely got hooked while trying to grab fish off a line that it thought was his for the taking. But it took off for Mexico, unlike many other rehabilitated young pelicans, and survived for 42 days before it was found dead on the beach. No obvious reasons were reported.

As more banded pelicans are reported, we will share their stories. They are being discovered all along the coast, from Baja to British Columbia, piecing together a story of their survival along the way.

November 23, 2012

Blue-Banded Pelican Contest: Clue #3

In last week’s clue for our current Blue-Banded Pelican Sighting Contest, we talked about pelicans commonly found on the breakwaters.

This week’s sighting tip? Pelicans love to hang out on sandbars with fellow pelicans, gulls and other birds. They like to bathe in fresh water around these areas, so often you can see them preening and lounging after bathing. It’s an easy place to spot them, and there’s usually a limited amount of grass or rocks to block the view of the bands. So check out sandbars in bays or at the mouths of rivers.

During domoic acid outbreaks in the Malibu area, we go to sandbars to identify pelicans that are being impacted. Produced by harmful algal blooms, domoic acid is a neurotoxin, and birds that have been affected can be seen weaving their heads back and forth. Pelicans that have been heavily impacted can even fall out of the sky. If we can get to them in time, we can treat them with aggressive fluid therapy and medications to reduce the seizures. Many survive.

J65, as seen here in the photo above, came to us as a sick adult bird, having hung out around the Malibu spit. Unfortunately, this bird did no survive post-release. A post-mortem did not show any abnormalities — it may simply have been an old bird. Whether or not they survive, we collect as much data as we can on these Blue-Banded Pelicans to find out more about their post-release experiences.

Want to know more about this sighting contest? Check out the rules here. You can report your sighting via our online system.