Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Beautiful Brown Pelican

Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is located off the city of Sebastian, Florida, just south of Brevard County. It has the distinction of being America's first wildlife refuge, created by President Theodore Roosevelt in March 1903. Every March, the Refuge hosts Pelican Island Wildlife Festival. This year's festival is scheduled for March 14, so we're going to do a series of posts about pelicans to get you ready for it.

Thanks to photographer Jim Angy, we can show you rare photographs of some of the inhabitants of Pelican Island. Access to the island is restricted to Park Rangers, but during the 1970s, Jim accompanied Dr. Herbert Kale and Warden Larry Wineland as they checked banded birds on the island, and he was able to get some remarkable photographs (on film, remember - no whining about digital sharpness). The first photo is a bird's eye view of Pelican Island flying in from the south.

Hundreds of brown pelicans return to this 2 1/2 acre island to nest almost every year. I thought you might enjoy seeing the brown pelican as a baby, a teenager, and an adult. Sibling rivalry begins early, even for brown pelicans! The white spots are fish scales from lunch (pre-digrested fish fed to them by their parents).

Within 20 to 30 days, the chicks have a coat of white down. Within five weeks, feathers begin to show through the white down, and the young birds begin to venture off the nest and onto nearby branches (shown here with parent - don't you love the heart on the kid's back?). Adult brown pelicans are practially mute, but young brown pelicans are quite vocal and make lots of squeaky sounds.
Tomorrow, we'll talk more about the adult brown pelican. Meanwhile, our thanks to Jim for these wonderful photos. (As usual, click to enlarge them.)

1 comment:

Cactus Jack Splash said...

Those are great pictures. We have pelicans here and I love watching them fly, they are very graceful.