Audubon begins long-term citizen science monitoring of CA Brown Pelican

In early May,  a dozen BVAS members and friends participated in a new survey program to help monitor the long-term health of California Brown Pelicans. While the California Brown Pelican was removed from the Endangered Species list in 2009, in recent years there has been poor productivity in mating areas; in addition, warmer oceans have driven away anchovies and sardines and other fish species that the pelicans feed upon.

Scientists have noticed that unprecedented numbers of Brown Pelicans have been flocking farther north to Oregon and Washington, and a nesting site has been discovered north of the Channel Islands, which historically marked the uppermost boundary of breeding territory. These shifts in pelican behavior have scientists concerned about what long-term climate change might mean for the California Brown pelican.

Thus, a new citizen science-based survey was launched on May 7, as a joint effort between USFWS, eBird, state agencies, and the Audubon network. Volunteers along the Pacific Coast counted numbers of Brown Pelicans at roosting sites between 5-7 p.m. This survey will be done in the spring and the fall each year.

BVAS took the lead in North County, and covered five sites-Batiquitos Lagoon, Agua Hedionda Lagoon, Santa Margarita River mouth, San Luis Rey River mouth, S. Ponto Beach, and Oceanside Harbor. Differentiating between juveniles and adults proved to be a challenge but was important information to gather; paradoxically, during spring, which is breeding season, more pelicans on the mainland means fewer on the islands where they breed. Our North County survey spotted 98 Brown Pelicans, of which 4 were juveniles. This is important baseline data for studying trends over time.

Thank you to Andy Mauro for organizing this event!

For more information on this program, please see


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