Pelican die-off again; this time, Seanetters are ready.

29 11 2011

Just about exactly one year ago, I posted about troubling numbers of Brown Pelicans turning up dead or severely injured on Topsail Beach in North Carolina. 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 of this year, dead and injured pelicans began turning up on Topsail again, many with wing fractures so severe that they had to be euthanized.

A Brown Pelican, a bit worse for the wear, found by Gilbert Grant just yesterday.

Now, we’re getting reports of injured birds yet again. Sara Schweitzer, Coastal Waterbird Biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, tells us that she has assisted in the rescue of 10-15 Brown Pelicans, most of which had suffered irreparable wing fractures and were euthanized. Dr. Craig Harms of NCSU will be performing necropsies on the birds that did not survive.

Unlike last year, we have Seanetters on the ground for this round of what now appears to be a regular occurrence on NC beaches. Gil Grant walks North Topsail Beach and has found 4 dead pelicans there since the beginning of November. While we are most pleased to be able to capture these events in our database, the need for observers goes beyond SEANET. The cause of these catastrophic injuries is still a mystery, and anyone who sees any behaviors or happenings that might help explain these events is urged to contact the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. And let us know too; SEANET is very nosy.

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5 responses

30 11 2011
napatreenaturalist

Is there any news about the cause of the wing fractures?

1 12 2011
scourc01

No news yet; it’s generally really tough to name a cause of trauma like this unless the causative event is observed. Without seeing what behaviors lead up to these fractures, we’re left with nothing but speculation.

2 12 2011
napatreenaturalist

Interesting. I know it’s hard to determine the precise cause, but is there some bird behavior or disease that might cause fractures? If not, is it reasonable to assume that these are inflicted wounds?

2 12 2011
Sara Schweitzer, NCWRC

These injuries are categorized as blunt-force trauma and may be from collisions with electric / telephone wires, guide wires, towers, or other obstacles. Further, they may be from entanglement with fishing gear, or being hit hard with a stick or bat or something else held by a person. Thus far, none of these events has been observed, just the results of blunt-force trauma. With more eyes, binoculars, spotting scopes, and cameras out there, we are very hopeful we will learn the cause of these injuries. The birds examined so far are hatch-year birds and are otherwise healthy.

6 12 2011
The loon in winter « SEANET Blog

[…] a comment thread running on our most recent post on the pelican die-off in North Carolina. Click here to read biologist Sara Schweitzer’s most recent […]

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