Yesterday, as we docked the boat at the back of San Pedro town, I spotted a brown pelican – and something was definitely not right.
I asked the guys on the next dock about him and they said something was stuck in his pouch. He couldn’t eat. He would die.
But let me back up a bit…
Pelicans are fascinating, bizarre, pre-historic looking goofball birds. Watching them dive bomb/belly flop into the oceans belies what a well-designed fishing machines these guys actually are.
They are one of the birds that you will see the most of when visiting the coast of Belize. We’ve got Brown Pelicans galore (they are endangered in the US but coming back!) – almost grey-brown with a white and yellow head. And once in a blue moon, mainly on the mainland since they are freshwater birds, the American White pelican.
(While their name (American Crocodiles Education Sanctuary) and focus is on protection and education around our island’s crocodiles, they are so willing to help with all wild animals in danger. From a boa to a iguana to birds. Recently, they have been rescuing a few pelicans in distress. Three with badly broken wings.)
My guy had a different issue. I sent the photos to Chris and Christina and left to take my dog to the Vet. We had a 1pm appointment.
They messaged back within 10 minutes and were on their way with the boat! He would have to be approached by water since his instinct would be to jump in the water.
They got him with the specialized bird net and removed this.
And while that may seem like standard pelican food – it is WAY too big for this guy to swallow. And swallow is what pelicans do. There are no teeth!
Here’s the information from Christina, the expert: But I just wanted to add, the issue isn’t so much the size of the fish, but the fact that is filleted and not whole. A filleted fish lacks the smooth skin that allows pelicans to swallow their food. The protruding bones get caught in or slice through their gular pouch, can pierce through their throat and crop, and can even penetrate their air sacs, which extend up the length of the neck.
So while it is COMMON knowledge that we should NOT feed crocodiles. Because it makes them sick. Because it makes them associate humans with food. Because it attracts them to populated areas…
We should ALWAYS be disposing of food and fish scraps properly. And not feeding wild animals. Or leaving it around to attract flies and who knows what else.
This sign that hung at Estel’s – an old island sign – is starting to make sense to me.
NOTHING GOOD comes from improper disposal of fish carcasses.
And trust me when I saw it – only the worst kind of asshole purposely hurts pelicans or any animals. Cowards.
Now you know.
This brown pelican is on his way to the mainland via water taxi and the equally amazing Nikki and her Belize Bird Rescue. (Read about my visit in: If You Love Parrots, Set Them Free)
He sustained some injuries – possibly to his vocal cords, definitely to the side of his pouch. Hopefully, he has a full recovery. Handsome kid.
THANK YOU ACES! PLEASE take a look at their website and if you can, make a donation to this crew that works day and night (literally) to rescue all sorts of beautiful creatures and an island that isn’t making it easy on them.