Good Old What’s-his-name
Peace River Wildlife Center admitted an American White Pelican on January 5, 2015. He was brought to us by one of our senior rescuers, Mark Kramer. (Not that Mark is a senior citizen. Remember back in school when being a “senior” was a good thing?) This young man (by southwest Florida standards, at least) has been rescuing injured birds for us since 2002. He is one of our only volunteers who makes aquatic rescues, going out on his 14-foot Caribe rigid inflatable boat to get pelicans in distress out on Charlotte Harbour.
Mark and his wife Martha use fish to coax a hungry bird that has not been able to feed itself because of its injuries. Unfortunately, this technique also attracts hungry juvenile pelicans who are just too dumb and lazy to find their own lunch. When I classify these birds as dumb and lazy, please understand that I mean them no disrespect. I am fully aware that the dumbest and laziest animal species on this planet is unquestionably man. (Well, I am anyway.) We have a diagnosis for this condition—DBS: Dumb Baby Syndrome.
Often Mark will bring in multiple “injured” juvenile pelicans with such symptoms as low body weight, drooping wings, limping, etc. On exam we can find nothing at all wrong with some of these birds. I could swear though at times the little devils have a glint of a smile in their eyes, as if they are getting one over on us. They get an easy meal, a boat ride and a free stay at the luxury resort PRWC for a few days while we fatten them up and make sure they are otherwise healthy before releasing them again.
A few weeks ago, Mark brought in one brown and two white pelicans. Those birds were all very weak, thin and had little to no blink response. These symptoms are often associated with a natural toxic event like red tide or botulism. Unfortunately, despite aggressive supportive care, all of those birds died. So when Mark called to say he was bringing in more pelicans we cringed. We were not sure if we should expect more dying birds or DBS patients who were just faking their injuries.
Mark had mentioned a broken wing, but sometimes people assume a wing is fractured because it is being held at an odd angle, but on exam the bones appear to be fine. This time Mark’s diagnosis was spot on. While the bird was being carried into our surgical ward, the tip of his right wing was still in the back of Mark’s truck. It doesn’t get much more broken than that.
It is hard to say what caused this bird’s injury, but he may have collided with a boat. The radius and ulna of his right wing were snapped in half and the distal (outer) portion of the wing had been dragging through the water for a while. By the time he got to us at PRWC, the ends of the bones were as clean as if they had been prepared for display at a museum. After the traumatic amputation stump was cleaned up surgically, the pelican healed quickly. He initially convalesced with two hungry juvenile brown pelicans. When they were released the white pelican was ready to move out to our pelican pond.
Obviously not used to sharing his resources with such a broad range of species in a relatively small area, he immediately snapped at and drove off a visiting great blue heron. He quickly settled in to the routine of eating thread herring being tossed to him by our volunteers and following the rest of his new flock into the enclosure in the late afternoon each day for nighttime safety. Bebe, our female white pelican, has accepted him and the two of them can be seen hanging out together in our pelican pond habitat.
We need a name for our newest resident. Since he is considerably larger than Bebe, we believe our new white pelican is a male. We will be taking preliminary name suggestions for a week or two, then set up voting stations for the top few names. This is how we selected the name Luna for our resident leucistic eastern screech owl. The contest was a lot of fun and gave our supporters and extra measure of “ownership” by getting them involved with the process. If you have any ideas for names, call or email them to PRWC. Better yet stop by and deliver your submission in person after checking out all of our residents.
We will have voting stations set up by our next Sunset Celebration on Friday, February 13 from 5-7p.m. Come out and vote for your favourite name. Each $1 donation counts as one vote. We will also have the stations set up at PRWC during regular visitors hours, seven days a week from 11a.m. to 4p.m. And we will have regular updates on our Facebook page. Help us name our new pelican!
by-Robin Jenkins, DVM