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A wise old bird…

Pelicans (9) in V-formation over Moss Landing, CA

… is the pelican. I remember the rhyme, told to me by my father, when I was a young boy.

When I was in college in the early 1970’s I saw a poster about DDT and the effect on the reproduction of California Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus). Pesticides like DDT and Dieldrin, both persistent organic pollutants, which can be distributed widely and do not break down easily, can undergo biomagnification in food chains. A research group led by Dr. Ralph Schreiber, at the University of Tampa, found that DDT causes the eggshells of pelicans to become too thin and unable to support the embryonic pelican to maturity. The results of the research led to the ban on use of DDT in the United States. I do not know the current status of DDT use in the rest of the world, but recalcitrant pesticides used anywhere stay around for a long time, and we are all riding on this beautiful planet together.

Since the ban on DDT in the United States, there has been a resurgence in the populations of pelicans, bald eagles, and other birds!

Along with the American White Pelican, the Brown Pelican is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. There are four subspecies of Brown Pelican, all of which can live over 30 years:

P. o. californicus (California Brown Pelican)

P. o. carolinensis (Eastern Brown Pelican)

P. o. occidentalis (Caribbean Brown Pelican)

P. o. urinator (Galapagos Brown Pelican)

The V-formation of nine pelicans in the photo above was shot over Moss Landing. You can see videos of Brown Pelicans on the Internet Bird Collection.

It is great to have them “back!”

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

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