¬†. . . .His beak can hold more than his¬† ‘belican.’
¬†¬†¬†¬† I am very happy to report that this big, brown shorebird with its famed¬†beak-pouch that can¬†hold whole fish, is no longer endangered!¬†¬†Once nearly exterminated as a result of hunting and the widespread use of the pesticide¬†DDT, the brown pelican has just been removed from the federal list of endangered and threatened species.
¬†¬†¬†¬† “This is truly a success story that the whole nation can celebrate,” says Sam Hamilton, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director.¬† “We once again see healthy flocks of pelicans in the air over our shores,” adds Tom Strickland, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
¬†¬†¬†¬† The brown pelican, a resident of southern U.S. shores,¬†was first declared endangered in 1970.¬† For years, it had been hunted for its feathers, and the widespread use of DDT had¬†led to a build-up of¬†the pesticide in ocean fish consumed by the pelican.¬†¬†Many pelicans died from ingesting the toxic fish.¬† And the eggs of¬†the pelicans who survived¬†were rendered so thin-shelled by the DDT that they were crushed under the weight of incubating birds.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Once DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972, brown pelican populations began to rebound.¬† By the 1990s, the brown pelican population had returned to pre-DDT levels.¬† Today, about 650,000 brown pelicans are flying, swooping, and swimming across Florida, along the Gulf and Pacific coasts, and in the Caribbean and South America.
¬†¬†¬†¬† Even after ‘graduating’ from the endangered species list, the brown pelican will still¬†receive federal protection through the Migratory Bird Act and a¬†federal¬†program that¬†continues to verify that¬†delisted species remain secure from the risk of extinction.
¬†¬†¬†¬† The brown pelican is indeed a marvelous bird.¬† It captures fish by spotting them from the air and diving into the water to catch them.¬† The pouch under the bird’s beak serves as a net to scoop up the fish from the water.¬† After capturing a fish, the pelican rises to the water’s surface, points its ¬†beak upward and swallows the fish whole.¬†
¬†¬†¬†¬† The brown pelican is about four feet long, with¬†a wing span of seven feet.¬† A graceful flyer and a strong swimmer, the pelican moves clumsily on land.¬†¬†The pelican is long-lived;¬† the oldest recorded age for the bird is 43 years.¬†¬†
¬†¬†¬†¬† It is a particular joy to me to know that the¬†brown pelican population is once again abundant.¬† Although I lived near the Florida coast from 1964 to 1974, I never in those years saw a single pelican.¬†¬†Not until 2000¬†when I was back visiting did I see pelicans flying about the shore.¬† Now, nine¬†years later, it¬†makes me happy to think that the pelican population is truly thriving.–April Moore