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... questions that have arrived at PelicanLife.org ...

Can oil be removed from pelicans and will the pelicans survive?
Yes, if the birds are caught in time and are brought to someone trained to do the cleaning. Here's a video posted on the Huffington Post:

"Earlier this week, a Gulf-oil-coated brown pelican was found in Mobile, Alabama, and taken to the nearby Theodore Oiled Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, where workers attempted to treat it.

The hour-long cleaning process, using warm water and diluted Dawn dishwashing liquid, is shown in the following two-minute video, courtesy of the US Coast Guard:

The pelican next requires at least a week of recuperation before it's back up on its webbed feet, its feathers are sufficiently realigned for flight, and it's ready for release--somewhere other than the Gulf.

Although the bath might look simple here, it's best not to attempt to clean an oil-spill affected pelican yourself, according to Jay Holcomb, Executive Director of the California-based International Bird Rescue Research Center.

For starters, the birds have no idea we're trying to help them. ..."

See also this May 15 YouTube: Washing a Bird http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MlNaAfE7qx0&feature=player_embedded

pelican icon

 

Do pelicans have individual personalities?
.....Yes! would say anyone who's observed pelican individuals for any length of time. Think of dogs, for instance: it wasn't long ago that we humans insisted that only our fellow humans had personalities (hence, the word from Medieval Latin, personalitatem, and the French, personnalité.) Science now is revealing that dogs have personalities, something any dog owner has long since known. Parrot owners have no doubt but that their companion birds have personalities. And cat aficionados, their cats. Probably all other creatures with developed brains have an individuality that in a human would be a "personality." And other creatures? It's not certain. It may be that we don't yet know enough. Not only have we not studied the multitude of species but most of us are unable to see beyond our own shadows. As for the California Brown Pelicans, they certainly do have distinct personalities: shy, out-going, brave, timid, aggressive, quick learners, others a little slower, ...as many variations, probably, as the colors of their pouches and those pouches can display a rainbow of colors.

.....Studies progress on personality in animals. The New York Times Magazine on Sunday, January 22, 2006, had a fascinating and long article on the state of current research. Check it out here: <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/22/magazine/22animal.html> Certainly, those 12 rescued pelicans in Santa Barbara had distinct temperaments and personalities, "temperament" being the biological component, while "personality" the more behavioral.


 

Why a World Wide Web site devoted to pelicans?
.....Well, why not: they're worldwide birds! Seriously, if you really want to know, please take a look at about this site.



How long do pelicans live?
.....It's not known exactly. There is no way of telling the age of a pelican without banding and only those that come in for care, to IBRRC on the west coast, for instance, are banded or, sometimes F&W. Then, of course, they have to be found again. It's been estimated that the Brown Pelican's life span can be up to 43 years. However, probably less than 30% of hatchlings survive beyond their first year and only 2% of the flocks are older than 10.

Many factors affect the life span: pollution, including oil, El Niño (ENSO) events affecting fish supplies, fishing line injuries to wings, and — especially — the skill required to fish. The Brown Pelican's specialized and unusual dive-fishing, with the coordination of flight angles and vision tracking the movement of fish in sometimes murky coastal waters, is very difficult for young pelicans to learn. When there are relatively few fish, many first-year juveniles starve. That's certainly being seen in the summer of 2006 (see this site's NEWS page for spring/summer of 2006.)

The maximum recorder life span is 19 years and 8 months. See this fascinating Stanford site for other birds' ages. "Precise information on the longevity of birds is not easy to come by. It is usually impossible to follow large groups of individuals from hatching to death, so in addition to collecting data directly by banding and recapturing individuals, many indirect methods of estimating age are used. Generally, it appears that the heaviest post-fledging mortality occurs among inexperienced young birds, and that for adults, after they have successfully reared young, the probability of death each year remains roughly constant. In other words, few birds die of "old age -- they just run the same gamut of risks year in and year out until they are killed. " Seabird ages are particularly hard to determine in wild birds.


 

How many eggs do pelicans have?
.....California Brown Pelicans usually have 3 eggs, although young birds may have only 2. Maximum number is 4. The eggs are white but become stained during the incubation period, which lasts from 29 to 32 days, starting from the day the first egg is laid. Average size: 3.09 inches by 1.99 inches, weighing 3.89 ounces, about 2-3% of the parents' body weight. (Click here or on the section divider graphic for a picture of the eggs.) Although the male initiates nest-building by choosing the site, the female builds the nest of twigs and seaweed with the male's help. In California, the nests are on the ground on West Anacapa Island, primarily. Nest building takes about a week, and both parents share incubation. Gulls lurk nearby and the eggs are not left unattended unless the nesting colony is disturbed.To prevent the loss of eggs, West Anacapa, so close to the mainland, is completely offlimits to all unauthorized visitation.

link to eggs pix

 

I've read about DDT and pelican egg-shells....
.....Pelicans incubate their eggs, keeping them warm and turning them over, by using their vascularized feet. A synthetic insecticide first discovered as such in 1939 — DDT was first synthesized in 1877 — DDE was in the Los Angeles area sewage system starting in the 1940's and washed into the marine environment. DDE is a metabolite of DDT and is a very stable compound that accumulated in the tissues of fishes and birds, moving up the food chain, especially affecting fish-eating birds such as the pelicans. The effect was disastrous: by the late 60's eggshells were so thin that in 1970, only 1 chick hatched out of the breeding ground of approximately 5,000 nesting sites. If a shell is less than 20% of normal, the egg will not hatch. In Southern California, shells were 31-51% thinner; even some shell-less eggs were laid. For an analysis of eggshell thinning, see: Mark Shields, Brown Pelican, The Birds of North America, No. 609, 2002, Cornell Lab. of Ornithology, page 15.

Similarly, for our national symbol, bald eagles, also fish eaters, the numbers dropped to less than 450 nesting pairs in the US, excluding Alaska. Also seriously affected were ospreys and peregrine falcons. DDT was banned in 1972 and since then the pelican population has rebounded, although continuing to be at risk from environmental and human factors. There has been controversy about the effects of DDT; for an analysis see the interview with an expert on pesticide effects on birds, Professor Daniel W. Anderson of the University of California at Davis, Effects of DDT on Birds, Environmental Review, 1994.

link to recovery

 

Do pelicans mate for life?
Although pair bonds are formed, apparently they don't necessarily last over years. However, no studies have been done to show whether that is so or not.

 

Why are pelicans "endangered" (and what does that mean)?
It is a legal definition for protection under the Endangered Species Act. In February, 2008, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed delisting the California Brown Pelican.
The return of the California Brown Pelican is a great success story of the E.S.A, from the just one chick hatching in the 1970's to the flocks seen now. However, breeding still is primarily on one island, Anacapa Island, and there remain threats to the species from food species (anchovies and sardines) decline from overfishing and also, periodically, the effects from el nino weather episodes. A major threat remains from oil spillage. The channel running by the Anacapa breeding site is a busy one for tankers and it also has oil wells. Santa Barbara area residents remember well the 1969 Union Oil spill.

Here is the link to the most recent five-year study of the Brown Pelican.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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