Saturday, November 15, 2008

Pelicans Are Back

(Photo: Monterey Bay pelican taking off by Jane Vargas of
Monterey Bay Photos. Permission requested.)

In 1970 The New York Times grimly predicted that pelicans - "as enduring an element of the Monterey Bay scene as the sea itself" - would soon be extinct. This year, however, brown pelicans have become relatively common, and we can enjoy the delightful sight of them soaring low over Monterey and Carmel Bays, swooping down and grabbing fish. Their presence is part of a success story, evidence that there is less DDT in the ocean since the federal government banned its use in 1972. Pesticides that run off into the oceans are absorbed by fish the pelicans eat. DDT in particular then poisoned the pelicans and prevented normal development of their eggs. So few offspring were hatched that the brown pelicans went on the state and federal endangered species lists. They remain on the list, but their numbers have recovered, and several thousand young pelicans now hatch each spring and summer in their breeding sites in the Channel Islands and off the West Coast of Mexico.

(Video: Pelicans at Monastery Beach near Carmel.)

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