In the winter of 2009-2010 West Coast populations of small schooling fish, the principal food of brown pelicans, crashed. These large, regal and elegant birds, a population battling their way back from DDT poisoning at the hand of man, died en mass. The International Bird Rescue facility in LA was overwhelmed with birds in trouble.
One pelican, emaciated, contaminated and weak, flew over the facility and noticed his cousins-the birds inside the aviary- were doing pretty well. He thought about it then checked himself in- On January 10, 2010 he landed in the yard next to the fence and waited for someone to usher him in for dinner and a checkup. His patent chart reads “Self Admitted“, he’s the only bird on record ever to do so.
Three short weeks later, feeling much better, he passed his physical and was fitted with a numbered bright blue plastic band. On January 29, 2010 the banded pelican C84 was released. California brown pelicans range from Mexico to Washington, and most of that coast is wild and uninhabited, so many released birds are not resighted. But nearly three years later, on November 11, 2012, he was seen in Moss Landing, Monterey .
Fast forward a few more years to July 30, 2015 in Pillar Point- the harbor of Half Moon Bay, California. I was paddling along the breakwater marveling at the number of pelicans in the harbor- well into the thousands, maybe over ten thousand. I noticed the bright blue tag on his left leg and snapped C84’s picture. I’ve since seen him five more times- August 16th and 29th, September 13th, 15th and 17th.
He was already at least three years old when he checked into rehab, so when I saw him in Half Moon Bay in 2015 he was over eight, in the prime of life, and hopefully adding more smart pelicans into a population still recovering. It’s nice to see that once in a while we can help right the wrongs of our past; he is still a wild bird and intervention does work, thanks to the International Bird Rescue guys!