Team Brown Pelican Aims to Keep Iconic Bird Flapping in SoCal

When it comes to keeping wildlife happy and healthy – especially species that once were struggling to stay alive – you gotta have a plan and do the plan. So say a joint venture between the International Bird Rescue (IBR) and Audubon California about the plight of one of the most iconic SoCal flappers, the brown pelican.

The two wildlife heavyweights have teamed up for the first time to urge the California Fish and Wildlife (CFW) folks to put into place monitoring procedures that would keep tabs on how the bird – once on the Endangered Species List – is faring in light of new threats. A five-year-status review of the pelicans required by the Endangered Species Act is set to take place this year…but so far, nothing has been planned or presented.

“There have been breeding failures on the Channel Islands three years in a row and that’s a big cause for concern,” says Andrew Harmon of the IBR whose organization has seen an influx of sick and starving pellies recently.

“The sardine crash is also raising concern for the birds,” agrees Anna Weinstein of Audubon California who added that the CFW has a mandate to make sure that the pelican stay off the Endangered Species List with a proper plan of action. “So far, that hasn’t happened,” she says.

Plenty of wildlife organizations would jump at the chance to help CFW say both Brown and Weinstein whose own groups are urging their members to write letters to CFW on behalf of protective measures for the brown pelican.

Like its more famous cousin the bald eagle, the brown pelican was the victim of DDT pollutants which brought it teetering close to extinction. It was first declared endangered in 1970, but since then has made a remarkable comeback. It’s estimated that today there are more than 620,000 brown pellies across Florida and the Gulf and Pacific Coasts. Here, the bird is found from British Columbia to Baja.

“This is not a crisis situation right now, but we don’t have all the facts and data about what is happening with the bird and that’s important,” stresses Harmon.

“We’re going to keep applying pressure to achieve our goals,” says Weinstein. “The public has certainly stepped up and supported us.”

Want to cast your name to the cause? Click here.


Brown pelicans recovering at the International Bird Rescue. Photo by Martha Benedict.