Brown Pelicans



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The once endangered Brown Pelican is regaining its numbers. The northernmost colony of brown pelicans now calls Barren Island their new home.




"Marvelous bird, the pelican. His beak can hold more than his belly can."

Ugly purple featherless things looking more like fat lizards than the agile acrobatic aerialist they will become, brown pelican chicks sit in nest of sticks in the low scrub of Barren Island. This colony of 7500 pelicans have made this undeveloped island west of the Honga river their home in the spring of 2002. It is the northern most colony of brown pelicans in the nation. The small muddy marshy island, covered in cord grass has little to attract humans, but the pelicans love it.


Pelican taking off
Pelican going airbourne

Biologists from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are banding the birds and studying the dynamics of this newly established colony. DNR has banded nearly 3400 birds over the past two seasons. Banded birds have been spotted as far north as Maine and as far south as Cuba. The bands have phone numbers to report deceased or injured birds and identifying numbers for reporting by bird watchers.

Most of Maryland's pelicans are found near the mouth of the Bay. Almost 1000 pelicans nested on Smith Island, double the previous years colony. Over 7500 birds call the Bay home.

Thirty years ago, pelicans were endangered by the use of DDT which weakened their egg shells and caused a dramatic fall off in the population. They have recovered extremely well in some places further south are so numerous as to be a pest. Large populations further south have pressured the fish population to such an extent that the Bay populations may be coming here because the pelican population further south has outgrown the available food. Breeding colonies in Maryland are more successful. DNR scientist see it as possible proof that the Bay is recovering enough to support these new colonies of dive-bombing birds.


Pelican in Flight


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