The birds migrate north from California and Mexico
The Daily Astorian
Published on May 22, 2018 12:01AM
Last changed on May 22, 2018 8:39AM
The Wildlife Center of the North Coast has already cared for several starving young California brown pelicans this spring.
Brown pelicans, which migrate north in the spring from nesting colonies off Southern California and Mexico, spent several decades on the federal endangered species list because of exposure to pesticides like DDT and other contaminants. Their delisting in 2009 was a success story, but concerns remain about the birds’ continued survival.
Chief among these concerns is the availability of food.
Anchovy and sardine stocks — important sources of food for brown pelicans — have collapsed in portions of the birds’ range. At nesting colonies in the south, researchers are concerned that lack of food is affecting the pelicans’ productivity. Some researchers theorize shifting ocean conditions could drive both prey and predators northward. In the meantime, a northern stock of anchovies remains an important source of food in the birds’ nonbreeding range, which includes roosts in Clatsop County.
“That’s a major concern and threat for this species,” said Michelle McDowell, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Brown pelicans have long lives — with a maximum documented life span of 43 years.
“They don’t have to breed every year, but making sure they have those food resources, that’s the big story of making sure this species is going to do well into the future,” she said.
It isn’t uncommon for wildlife center workers to have starving pelicans on their hands while the birds are up here. Sometimes pelicans stay north for too long, into late fall and early winter, and get stuck when food runs out.