More than ten years after being released in Georgia, a Brown Pelican rescued from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill has been spotted in Louisiana.
According to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the pelican was spotted by biologists in March on a rock jetty on Queen Bess Island in Barataria Bay.
The bird was rescued in June 2010 after being found covered in oil at the Empire Jetties in Barataria Bay during the aftermath of the spill.
From there, the bird was taken to a triage facility and then to a rehabilitation facility in Louisiana before being taken by plane to Georgia for release on July 1, 2010.
“It’s truly impressive that it made its way back from Georgia," said LDWF biologist Casey Wright, who spotted and photographed the pelican last month.
The pelican was identified as the rescued bird by the "Red 33Z" tag that is still on its right leg.
The department says it isn’t known exactly when the bird came back to Louisiana.
Other pelicans released in Georgia, Texas, and Florida have also been spotted back in Louisiana, according to LDWF.
“Brown pelicans, like most seabirds, are thought to be hard-wired, genetically, to return to their birth colony to breed, despite moving long distances during the non-breeding season," LDWF Non-game Ornithologist Robert Dobbs said. “That may be an overly simplistic generalization, but re-sighting data of banded pelicans often support that pattern."
LDWF says the pelican was one of 582 successfully rehabbed during the aftermath of the spill.
More than 5,000 birds, dead and alive, were collected in Louisiana because of the disaster. Brown pelicans made up 22 percent of all recoveries.
According to the department, data suggest that the spill resulted in between 51,000-84,000 birds killed with the actual number likely on the higher end of that scale.
Agents say the pelican was released in Georgia because it was captured early on after the spill. A release outside the spill impact area was done to stop the bird from getting into the oil again.
Queen Bess Island, which was heavily impacted by the oil spill, is a key colonial water bird nesting colony that accounts for 15-20 percent of young brown pelicans hatched in Louisiana in a given year.
The island, managed by LDWF as a refuge now, had been reduced to about five acres of available nesting habitat before the restoration project in 2019-20. It now has about 36 acres, according to LDWF.
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