Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

Blue-Banded Pelicans

November 8, 2012

Blue-Banded Pelican Contest: Clues and Tidbits

Last week, International Bird Rescue launched our official Blue-Banded Pelican Sighting Contest, sponsored by Eagle Optics, which has generously donated two pairs of beautiful binoculars for our winning adult and youth contestants (click here for official rules).

If you’ve been out scouting for these birds, you may have noticed that many Blue-Banded Pelicans are young and still trying to figure out how to survive on the coast, where food supplies can be limited and the odds of encountering human-related injuries are high.

Photo © Bernardo Alps/PHOTOCETUS. All rights reserved.

This is M16, a Brown Pelican received at our Northern California center on August 30, 2011 suffering from fishing tackle injuries. Then a hatch-year (HY) bird, M16 was successfully treated and released on October 14, 2011 at Ft. Baker in Sausalito under the Golden Gate Bridge. It was not seen again until October 7, 2012 when it was spotted in Monterey.

Here you can see M16 searching for fish scraps on the Monterey Wharf near a commercial fish-processing area. We don’t always like to see our rehab birds begging and looking for scraps at such facilities, but young pelicans are by nature clever and opportunistic in finding fish. This can be to their detriment when they collide with fishermen and fish-processing activities, whether public or commercial.

The good news is that M16 was later spotted just a few days ago on October 30 at the beautiful Port San Luis Harbor in San Luis Obispo. By all accounts, the bird is doing well and can fend for itself!

With the help of state and federal wildlife agency folks, we will be targeting sites like the Monterey Wharf, working to locate where the birds are being fed and where they are being oiled by fish waste, or even subjected to abuse. Our simple goal is to limit the injuries faced by pelicans. And you’re helping out this cause tremendously by reporting Blue-Banded Pelicans like M16 that you may see.

So here’s your sighting clue for our Eagle Optics binoculars contest: Locate local public or commercial fish-processing or cleaning stations, and you’re sure to find a pelican or two in the area. We receive many of our reports from fish-processing stations, from California to Washington state.

Interested in supporting our Blue-Banded Project with a donation? Please click here for more information.

Two Blue-Banded Pelicans recently released by International Bird Rescue. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds.

November 3, 2012

Birds, Bands, and Binoculars

Dear Friends,

What bird looks a bit like a flying dinosaur, yet has the precision and power to soar majestically and dive for its food? The iconic California Brown Pelican has long been an indicator species for changes in our environment. Once decimated by DDT use, their populations have bounced back, and we want to know more about where they go and the problems they encounter once they are cared for and released from one of our wildlife hospitals.

Starting today, International Bird Rescue is unveiling a special Blue-Banded Pelican Contest. We are asking folks both young and old to go out and look for pelicans with blue bands on their legs, and then report the information (the highly visible number on the band and where they were seen) via our online reporting system (read more about this program here).

Your efforts will be rewarded! The top adult and youth band reporter will win a pair of Eagle Optics binoculars and become an honorary Pelican Partner, which includes a VIP tour of one of our wildlife hospitals and the opportunity for you to release a pelican back into nature. As you aid the important scientific research on the travels of the Pelecanus occidentalis, you will be helping in their conservation.

Photo by Marie Travers

For the past 20 years, International Bird Rescue has banded more than 5,000 rehabilitated brown pelicans. In 2009, we began placing large blue plastic leg bands on our released pelicans so that the public can more easily spot their identification numbers. This is part of our ongoing post-release evaluation of these birds so that we can get an idea of their survival and travels. In September, we banded and released our 1,000th blue-banded brown pelican, so there are many banded pelicans out there. These birds have been seen from Mexico to Washington state, as well as a few in the Gulf states.

What’s next?

Grab your binoculars and keep an eye out for these wonderful birds. The contest runs from November 3 through January 2, 2013. Winners will be announced on January 5, 2013. We will be posting your sighting stories and hints on where to find pelicans in upcoming blog posts and on our Facebook page. More info on rules and contest details can be found here.

Help us make Every Bird Matter — and Count, too!

Good luck,

International Bird Rescue


October 25, 2012

1,000 Blue-Banded Pelicans — and Counting!

On a recent afternoon at the Golden Gate Recreation Area’s Ft. Baker, International Bird Rescue released its 1,000th Blue-Banded Pelican, with wonderful help from bird lover Ken Blum and his family!

#ROO, a juvenile, was released alongside a fellow juvenile pelican. Surrounded by porpoises, gulls, cormorants, grebes and sea lions at Ft. Baker, the two birds took a few moments to find their bearings upon leaving their respective crates, then headed off and performed some fantastic synchronized flying in the bay. The Blum family attended with our San Francisco Bay Area wildlife care center manager Michelle Bellizzi (pictured below with Benjamin Blum) and volunteer coordinator Cheryl Reynolds.

Why are these pelicans wearing blue bands, you might ask?

International Bird Rescue has been saving pelicans since 1971. Once decimated by the use of DDT, which put them on the endangered species list, the population has since rebounded in recent decades, and the species was taken off the endangered list in 2009. However, we still receive hundreds of Brown Pelicans each year at our centers for a variety of reasons, from fishing hook injuries to seal bites to domoic acid poisoning — the result of a neurotoxin produced by algae.

We are not content to simply release these animals back into the wild. We want to know what happens to them. That’s why beginning in 2009, we began putting larger, blue plastic bands on their legs for easy identification. These bands are in addition to the metal federal band. Because of this, we are receiving many more reports from the public on these birds — exactly what we were hoping for!

Want to get involved? Here are two of the best ways to do so:

1. Look for Blue-Banded Pelicans — at the beach, the piers, or wherever pelicans hang out. It’s fun and you may get to see one or more of the birds that we have cared for. Make sure to catch the band number, then let us know about your sighting at Report a Bird on our website.

2. Become a supporter of International Bird Rescue. Pelicans are extremely costly to rehabilitate and release back into the wild. These birds consume about half their body weight per day — and the fish bill adds up. Your donation will help ensure that our mission to help pelicans and other aquatic birds in need continues. Find out more here.

Photos and video By Cheryl Reynolds

September 13, 2008

Golden Gate Bridge pelican returns to freedom

The brown pelican named “Gigi” that landed and halted traffic in August on the Golden Gate Bridge was released released back to the wild on Friday, September 12. The young bird was rescued and transferred to International Bird Rescue where it has been recuperating for the past several weeks.

Watch: Brown Pelican captured on Golden Gate Bridge

This female brown pelican also had the unique fortune of capturing the attention of filmmaker Judy Irving of Pelican Media, who successfully documented “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill.” Irving has decided to include this special bird in her latest project on the life of pelicans. She also filmed the release of Gigi (as in “Golden Gate”) along with a handful of other pelicans nursed back to health at IBR’s San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center.

Laurie Pyne, Bird Rescue’s Development Director, reports:

The Golden Gate pelican (aka P193) and company was released Friday and all went beautifully! Nancy and Jerry Mix and myself were happily surprised when we pulled up and saw a crowd of people from the Discovery Museum, the two folks that have the little red firetruck and do SF tours, the SF police, the staff from the Golden Gate bridge, and others at the release site at Fort Baker. Everybody was really jazzed to see these truly incredible birds leave their carriers (“GG” was last, of her own accord!), swim en masse in front of everyone before flying in a large circle in front of us and then off into the sunset.

The kids cheered and the folks that rescued her actively participated and they couldn’t stop smiling. Two of them drove in SPECIAL to be there. It was a really wonderful experience for all of us.

Judy Irving filmed every aspect of the release, as she has been filming all of “GG’s” journey for her new short film on pelicans. Some of you have likely seen her hanging around the center with her camera and gear. She is the filmmaker who made “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill”. This was a great opportunity to do some community outreach and the feedback has been really positive and wonderful.

Media story: Golden Gate wayward pelican healed and at home