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Pelican Census Finds Largest Number of Nesting Pairs in Bay’s History
Holland Island, Md. — The recent colonial shorebird census compiled by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources found 1,042 nesting brown pelican (Pelicanus occidentalis) pairs in the Chesapeake Bay, the largest number in recorded history.
“Pelicans are relatively new to the bay ecosystem, and not something that Captain John Smith would have seen during his historic explorations,” explained DNR biologist Dave Brinker. “Climate change - warmer weather and milder, shorter winters - may be encouraging pelicans to expand their northernmost Atlantic Coast habitat into the Chesapeake Bay.”
DNR biologist Dave Brinker discovered Maryland’s first-ever recorded nesting pair of brown pelicans 1987. Every summer since then, Brinker has lead teams of biologists and volunteers to band 95 percent (more than 18,000) of the pelican chicks raised in the bay’s isolated islands. From just five known nesting pairs in 1987, the number of brown pelican pairs in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay grew to 141 in 1999 and 1,042 in 2008.
Weighing just 8 to 10 pounds, a brown pelican’s 6 ½ foot to 7 ½ foot wingspan enables it to travel hundreds of miles every year. Brown pelicans from the mid-Atlantic population are believed to be the most migratory of the species, with Maryland as the northernmost state with successful nesting pairs. Brown pelicans arrive in the Chesapeake Bay to nest and breed beginning in mid-March. After spending the summer feeding on menhaden, shad and other fish, the migratory birds leave the Chesapeake for warmer winter weather in Florida and northern Central America.
“If you see pelicans, do not feed them,” urged Brinker. “Feeding pelicans and other migratory birds distracts them from their natural migration behavior, which can be deadly for pelicans.”
Last month, the Maryland Commission on Climate Change appointed by Governor Martin O’Malley released a Climate Action Plan that detailed the effects of global warming facing our state and recommended actions to protect Maryland’s people, land, and investments from rising sea levels and changing weather patterns. Under the O’Malley/Brown Administration, Maryland is reducing global warming pollution through: the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative; the Clean Cars Act; EMPOWER Maryland; increasing Renewable Portfolio Standards; enacting living shorelines requirements; strengthening the Critical Areas Act to protect sensitive shorelines; adopting new green building standards for public buildings and investing in green technology for schools; transitioning the state’s fleet to hybrid buses; fully funding land conservation programs; improving mass transit options; and encouraging smart growth in BRAC development zones. For more information visit http://www.dnr.maryland.gov/dnrnews/infocus/climatechange.html.
September 19, 2008
Contact: Olivia Campbell
410-260-8016 office I 410-507-7525 cell
Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages more than 449,000 acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 12 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at www.dnr.maryland.gov.