Pesticides are doing more than upping the heat, their entrance into the food chain can mean toxicity in what people and wildlife consume. Highlighting the significant consequences of pesticides, throughout the 1950s to 1970s, the Brown Pelican nearly disappeared from North America. Yet, today, these stocky seabirds are a testament to the power of wildlife conservation, and no story highlights this potential more than Blue, a Brown Pelican found in San Pedro with significant injuries. 

Spotted by a member of a local sport-fishing crew on March 10th, a 3-year-old Brown Pelican was found hobbling down the San Pedro Pier. The crew member tossed the once-endangered species a fish, which slid out of its beak. This revealed a cut running parallel to the jaw, through to the back of its neck, and into its feathered skin. With an exposed and damaged pouch, it is believed that the injured bird was unable to feed itself for at least a day. 

Blue was driven two miles by the crew member to the International Bird Rescue, a nonprofit organization in California that cares for and rehabilitates injured aquatic birds. The International Bird Rescue nicknamed the Brown Pelican Blue in memory of an injured pelican the nonprofit organization treated a decade ago named Pink, who required 600 stitches after being found. 

The rescue center reported that Blue required 500 stitches in total to reattach its pouch, a vital structure for Brown Pelicans as it allows the seabirds to scoop up and swallow fish. Russ Curtis, from the nonprofit International Bird Rescue, said that an injured pouch is essentially a “death sentence” for these birds.

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Upon arrival at the International Bird Rescue, Blue required an immediate 400 stitches. This was performed by the organization’s chief veterinarian, Dr. Rebecca Duerr. After resting for five to six days, Blue underwent an additional procedure for another 100 stitches that sewed up the rest of the bird’s exposed mouth area. 

While standing as a living symbol of the power of wildlife conservation, Blue also highlights the horrors of human activity – with the bird’s injuries believed to be human-caused. Oftentimes, injured pelicans are the result of tears caused by fishing lines in the coastal area, but Curtis remarked that Blue’s injury was more significant and likely due to some human interaction. “We believe these are human-caused. Evidence from the folks who did the surgery and looked at the pouch laceration said the way it was cut — it looks like somebody was malicious and did this horrible act,” Curtis said.

After 45 days at the rescue center, Blue’s healing process highlights the resiliency of these birds, especially if they can receive quick care and hydration. Unable to eat while injured in the wild, the female pelican was able to gain weight at the rescue center by eating about 300 pounds of fish throughout her stay.

Hydration, fish, and immediate surgical care have led to Blue’s injuries healing. On April 25th, Blue was released back into the wild, making her way back home and joining other pelicans at White Point Park. 

Curtis stated, “Let’s be more mindful around wildlife. We need to share our space with wildlife.” This moment in Blue’s life is a call to action – while wildlife conservation has helped bring these majestic birds back from near-extinction, there is still work that needs to be done.