Thursday, January 22, 2009

A pelican brief.

Brown Pelicans off Monterey, CA, during a much friendlier December.

Remember that snow we had, starting before Christmas and continuing/lingering until after New Year’s? How can one not? Heaps of it still remain in parking lots and at the corners of driveways, attesting to how severe weather in the Pacific Northwest (or southwest, from a Canadian perspective) has been.

But for all our complaining and inconvenience, there are those who have had it worse. From mid-December onward, hundreds of Brown Pelicans were found ailing or dead along the Oregonian and Californian coasts. What was first suspected to be an instance of disease or algal poisoning is now believed to been caused by exposure to harsh winter weather. These birds, once severely endangered, have rebounded well since the banning of DDT, and are expanding their range northward. Susceptible to cold, and waiting too long to head south, many were hit hard by those December storms.

In British Columbia, the Brown Pelican was described by Campbell et al. (1990) as “Very rare transient and winter visitant to coastal waters around southern Vancouver Island. Casual elsewhere on the south coast.” As that reference is almost two decades old, it wouldn't be surprising if they were now somewhat more common here. Indeed, a winter-worn individual turned up in White Rock in December of 2006. This year, any this far north would have had a similarly miserable time.

For a much more fun account of wintertime and birds, see I and the Bird #92, poetically presented by Seabrooke Leckie at The Marvelous in Nature.


Campbell, R.W., N.K. Dawe, I. McTaggart-Cowan, J.M. Cooper, G.W. Kaiser and M.C.E.McNall. 1990. The Birds of British Columbia. Vol. 1. UBC Press.

1 comment:

Karen said...

V. sad about the pelicans. I love those guys. Saw more in N. Cal. when I lived there but have seen them up here (N. WA) too. Bummed when the critters get their signals crossed and don't make it. A good reminder that we're not the only ones having a hard time this winter!