Pelicans littering the shores?!

8 03 2011

In an earlier post, I gave an update on the unusual Brown Pelican mortalities reported on Topsail Beach in North Carolina. Some of the pelican carcasses were submitted to the Southeast Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS) for necropsy, and the final results from those examinations are now available. Dr. Kevin Keel, a wildlife pathologist at SCWDS, wrote that the birds varied in age from juvenile to adult. All were in good nutritional condition, not thin. All the stomachs contained fish (menhaden, croakers, and “yellow-tails”) which had been ingested very recently.  X-rays of the birds showed no fractured bones, and no shot pellets or other metal fragments. One bird had fluid in the air sacs that lie under the skin in birds.This was speculated to have been seawater, as the bird was also soaking wet to the skin. The birds were tested for viruses, algal toxins, heavy metals and some other contaminants; all tests came back negative. There were no underlying diseases diagnosed in any birds.

So where does that leave the investigation? These results rule out deliberate, human-inflicted gunshot or bludgeoning as suggested in the local media, but they do not give a clear cause of death.

Entanglement in fishing nets still seems a very likely possibility. The presence of fluid in at least one bird’s air sacs is consistent with (though by no means absolutely indicative of) drowning. Also, the very recent ingestion of only a couple species of fish across all the birds suggests that they were actively feeding when they died. This also points toward a fatal interaction with fishing gear.  There is no way to know for certain, but this thorough investigation shows the merits of necropsies in such cases–without the work done at SCWDS, the speculation that people deliberately shot or beat the birds to death would likely have prevailed.


In other dead pelican news, Lorrie in Guilford Connecticut found a very interesting item on the beach there. She looked up  SEANET and got in touch via this blog with a photo of a bird very far outside its accustomed range: a rather well decomposed and somewhat mummified American White Pelican! In perusing the reported sightings of that species on, I find one report from November 2003, one from October 2008, and one from December 2009. So these birds, live or dead, are a novelty up here in these parts.  Lorrie’s not a Seanetter yet, but we’re hoping she will be soon as she clearly has an eye for dead birds. So thanks Lorrie!

A rare bird indeed: American White Pelican found by Lorrie Shaw in Connecticut.





3 responses

9 03 2011

It would be rare for them to release cause of death if they knew it, I feel it is the Corexit use in the oil gusher in the gulf, many of the same deaths of all types rare happening in Austria and New Zealand after they use Corexit int the ocean there about 18 months ago and deaths to humans have said to have been. The new virus’s they are using to eat the oil (synthetic) are quite scary, they change other natural virus’s to eat oil and were never meant too ! Pandora’s box !

This is a great site for inf. also.

26 04 2011
They’re at it again (pelicans). « SEANET Blog

[…] actual “news,” today’s post will sound depressingly familiar to many of you. The most recent post on the subject was back in March when I updated you on the numerous dead pelicans turning up on […]

29 11 2011
Pelican die-off again; this time, Seanetters are ready. « SEANET Blog

[…] Speculation that the birds had been beaten to death by malevolent humans was not born out by necropsies performed at SCWDS in Georgia, though a definite cause of death was not determined. Then, in April […]

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