Arf! Our state bird is flying by as we put the Wetland Wanderer back in the water on the Industrial Canal in New Orleans. The Brown Pelican, Pelicanus occidentalis, is an endangered species success story. CC tells me that in 1962 this long winged, big-pouched fish eating bird was extinct in the state. Not really extinct because they were still living in Florida and other places, extirpated is the word we use to say they are gone from one certain area.
This was sad because it is our state bird. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and fisheries decided to do something about that problem. They borrowed some birds from Florida and put them on a small but safe island near Grand Isle and watched them very closely. Over the next 41 years they prospered. And now we have them all over the Louisiana coast flying in formation looking for fish.
The reason they all died was because they were eating fish that had been eating smaller fish that had been eating aquatic plants that were poisoned with DDT, a very toxic pesticide that had gotten in the waters of Louisiana after it ran off farm fields and went into streams, then rivers, then into the coast. The DDT did not kill the pelicans out right. DDT caused their eggshells to be thinned, so when the parents sat on the eggs to incubate them they broke. With no new baby birds they soon all died.
We have banned DDT so now the Brown Pelican, the Osprey, and the Bald Eagle are laying good eggs and raising healthy baby birds.
I watched a Brown Pelican dive-bomb into the water to catch a fish to eat. This cool water bird has a lower beak that is a built in fish trap. The beak has hard edges with a pouch of loose skin that can stretch to hold over two gallons of water! The Brown Pelican can dive from 30 feet in the air, fill its beak with water, drain the water out, and swallow the fish whole. What a great fisherman this creature is! I hope I will be half as successful with the new fishing pole I asked Santa-dog to bring me!
Prowling around the Pontchartrain,
Your M.U.T.T. in the marsh signing off……..Annie