July 2011 home page

  Pelican Patrol
Sherryl L. Parks | Kalamath Drive


Brown Pelican. Photo Paul Haydu


Human beings are so interesting. Just when you think we’ve gone all technical we have hints that our intuitive powers are working still. Particularly when it comes to natural phenomena people are keenly aware of subtle changes around us.
The “Sandpiper” heard reports from residents that there seems to be an up-tick in the number of brown pelicans along the coast. In fact, some walkers reported that they had seen quite a few dead pelicans lying on the beach and they asked us to investigate. We asked Robert Patton, who coordinates surveys on Least Terns, Snowy Plovers, and other rare birds in SD County coast, for an explanation.

“I’ve not heard any explanations for the perceived increase in brown pelicans, (I) am not sure how significant it is, and suspect it to be within normal fluctuations when viewed long term. There are no extensive countywide bird surveys to provide a good count of pelican numbers, but in looking at a sample of data such as the monthly bird counts at San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve and Cardiff State Beach, the data support the perception of an increase this year and indicate that numbers may be up by as much as 50 percent. From 2003 to 2011, the average number of pelicans observed on each monthly count in the first quarter of each year was 70 but the average in the first quarter of 2011 was 141. While the average number of pelicans each April from 2003 to 2011 was 84, the observed number in April of 2011 was 200. These are just snapshot samples and any real statistical analysis would require more frequent surveys,” says Patton.

Let’s ask Dr. Rich for his explanation in this matter.


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