Tropical Storm Cindy has washed baby brown pelicans off their nests on the barrier islands, and they’re coming ashore in Pass Christian and Waveland.
They started showing up late Wednesday and early Thursday. There were more than 10 at the latest count and the Wildlife Care and Rescue Center had five more calls late Thursday.
Wildlife officials expect more to wash up and ask beach-goers to alert wildlife rescue.
Observant people noticed the first of the young birds on the beach and held them for rescue.
Alison Sharpe, with WCRC, found four half-grown pelicans delivered to Pass Christian Harbor with swollen legs and ankles from having had to paddle against winds and waves all the way from the Chandeleur Islands, where their nests were.
Two of the first four found died or had to be euthanized.
In addition to this devastation, hundreds of baby Least terms that nest in large colonies along the Mississippi beaches were drowned by the storm.
Mark LaSalle, director of the Pascagoula River Audubon Center, said he was not surprised by the devastation to nesting areas. This is the nesting season.
“It’s what happens when we have these early storms,” he said. “It’s sad, but it’s nature. The nesting areas are flooded and the babies are washed out to sea.”
He said there were baby Least terns “all over the place” from dozens of nesting colonies. The chicks and the eggs drown, he said.
Pelicans nest offshore
There were hundreds of baby pelicans in nests on the Chandeleur Islands when Tropical Storm Cindy hit this week.
Sharpe predicts, from past experience, there will be many more brown pelican chicks washing ashore.
She said it is the height of the breeding season for the brown pelicans that nest in the Mangrove roots on the islands.
Sharpe said that one of the recent hurricanes or tropical storms (that hit since Hurricane Katrina in 2005), deposited dozens of baby brown pelicans on the Mississippi beaches.
These are fuzzy brown pelican chicks that are just getting their feathers, Sharpe said. She said the ones that have been found, “were just sitting on the beach.”
Based on what happened last time, she speculates that waves washed over the nesting area on the Chandeleurs. Pelicans do not nest in Mississippi.
Workers at the Breton National Wildlife Refuge said a trip to the nesting area is planned for next week. It is a 45-minute boat ride from Venice, Louisiana.
Call wildlife rescue
Sharpe said that two of the surviving pelican chicks have leg injuries and have not eaten in awhile. They are not even old enough to fly, she said.
She said the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies has donated four boxes of fishes and has pledged more to help with the effort to try and save the birds.
Sharpe is asking beach-watchers to report any young pelicans they find as soon as possible. If you find one, call WCRC at 228-669-2737.
She said if you put them in a box, do NOT tape their beaks shut. They will suffocate.
For the ones she has now, “it’s a race against time to save them,” she said. It was a long journey from the islands and, “they were too young to feed themselves.”
If you find one
- Call WCRC at 228-669-2737.