Pelicans are pretty easy to spot. They are large, weigh 10-20 pounds and have a wingspan of 8-10 feet. They are white with a long neck and a massive, orange bill. You can often see them by the hundreds either swimming, fishing or soaring. They can soar for what seems like forever, on long, broad white and black wings. Seeing one is easy, and usually there isn’t just one. Catching one, however, is hard.
I’ve had the privilege of being involved in the monitoring and management of American White Pelicans in Utah. Pelicans have had some tough times, from disturbance of nesting colonies, pesticide use and population controls.
But through conservation efforts, pelicans have started to make a comeback. They are still not as abundant as they used to be, but the overall outlook is bright. That is a good thing for these birds and for people like me who love to see them.
However, it can also be a not-so-good thing if you are a fish in a sensitive fishery, or an airplane that just had a negative, mid-air interaction with a pelican.
So I — along with a whole team of biologists — am working on answering the questions to better help us continue conserving the pelican and avoid the issues they can cause.
A portion of this kind of work involves banding and tagging young pelicans at the nesting colony on Gunnison Island, which you can read in a previous post. Another part of the work (the part that I’ve been working on) involves catching adult pelicans and attaching GPS transmitters to track daily and seasonal movement patterns.