BVAS Team Participates in October Pelican Survey
by Andy Mauro
Following the ban of DDT in 1972, Brown Pelican populations rebounded to the point where the species was taken off the Endangered Species List in 2009. Since that delisting, however, there has been a disturbing downward trend in population. In recent years, pelican productivity has been poor, and key forage species including anchovy and sardine have collapsed, raising questions and concerns about the health of the California Brown Pelican subspecies.
On October 15, a team of 12 BVAS volunteers counted a total of 147 California Brown Pelicans settling in at four coastal North County locations during the 4-hour period prior to sundown. The BVAS team was part of a group of approximately 200 volunteers who were counting pelicans at west coast locations from Baja California to Oregon. Volunteers followed specific guidelines as to when, where, and how to record the number of roosting pelicans at each assigned location.
Agua Hedionda Lagoon was the most popular roost site among those surveyed by the BVAS team. A total of 123 pelicans was counted roosting on the buoys and floats associated with the mussel and oyster farming operation in the west basin of the “power plant” lagoon. The jetties and docks at Oceanside Harbor attracted 15 roosting pelicans, with fewer numbers recorded at the mouth of the San Luis Rey River and Batiquitos Lagoon. A similar survey conducted by the team in May recorded about half as many pelicans at the four North County sites. This was an expected result, since May is a time of the year when pelicans would normally be expected to be away at their breeding colonies on off-shore islands. The data will become more meaningful as the May/October surveys continue in future years, and population trends begin to emerge.
The survey was part of a 5-year joint study now being conducted by a group of public wildlife agencies and non-profit conservation groups, including Audubon. The project is an attempt to help define the distribution and abundance of California Brown Pelicans and track shifts in the population structure.