A fixture on or soaring over your favorite stretch of coastline was recently delisted from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Endangered Species List.
Brown pelicans have displayed such a complete comeback from the brink of extinction that the comical seabirds were removed from the list earlier this month.
The Endangered Species Act passed in 1970. The brown pelican was listed three years before that. Nearly wiped out by DDT pesticides, the ungainly birds — noted for their triangular flight formations — were affected nationwide and along the coasts of the Caribbean and Central and South America.
The Channel Islands National Park, and especially Santa Barbara and Anacapa islands, are the largest breeding grounds for these sociable birds on the entire West Coast. Pelican numbers on those islands have reached historic levels.
“The recovery of the brown pelican is a tremendous milestone for conservation in our country,” said Russell Galipeau, superintendent of Channel Islands National Park. “This species has been safeguarded by the Endangered Species Act, as well as being sheltered in the national park, on remote islands that provide undisturbed nesting and roosting habitat.”
Toxins such as DDT caused pelicans to lay thin-shelled eggs that were crushed during the incubation process. Other birds of note that were affected this way include raptors such as peregrine falcons and bald eagles.
Bald eagles were removed from the Endangered Species List a year ago, but the majestic raptors are still trying to colonize the rugged archipelago. Those birds are at the top of the food chain and are still experiencing thin-shelled eggs.
The delisting means federal agencies no longer need to consider effects on approving development such as roads because brown pelicans have rebounded so well after being listed for 40 years. With DDT still in the ecosystem, scientists will continue to monitor population levels.
— Local freelance writer Chuck Graham is editor of Deep magazine.