Friday, July 8, 2011

Bumper Crop of Pelican Chicks on Gaillard Island, Alabama

As this year’s crop of baby pelicans hatch out on Gaillard Island in Mobile Bay, biologists in Alabama are breathing a sigh of relief. At the midpoint of the first nesting season since the BP oil spill, the manmade rookery is housing a bumper crop.  At 1,300 acres, this island is one of the largest pelican nesting areas on the upper Gulf Coast.
Gaillard Island birds
Baby Brown Pelicans on Gaillard Island, Alabama (2011)
I think there is an uptick in the number of pelicans out there, and maybe even royal terns. Overall, it looks like a great year, said Roger Clay, with the state Division of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

Back in the early 1990s, shortly after the island was created out of the dirt dug up to make the Theodore Industrial Canal, around 1,000 pairs of pelicans showed up to nest. This year, there are 4,000 to 6,000 pairs, along with more than 10,000 pairs of gulls, herons, ibis and terns.
The 8,000 pelicans are now raising around 16,000 chicks, while the 20,000 gulls and other birds are raising around 40,000 chicks, meaning there are more than 80,000 birds on the island.

 We can always throw that caveat that we won’t know for years if the spill caused a problem, but a good hunch is that in the short term, it doesn’t appear to have had an effect, Clay said last week.

He said nearly every kind of shorebird common in the state nests on Gaillard. The island is prime bird habitat for two reasons: there are no predators and there are no people.


  1. I don't think I had ever seen baby pelicans before. How sweet! Thanks for sharing.

    TopsyTurvy Land

  2. I've never seen baby pelicans before either. Beautiful asnd thanks for sharing this wonderful update!

  3. Nancy, I share you joy in seeing the return of so many pelicans.

  4. Thank you all so much for your comments! This really is happy news, and I appreciate your sharing in something wonderful happening in the gulf.

  5. All very interesting Nancy. Something to interest kids during the summer. Nature in all it's glory and wonder is always a fun thing to encourage them to learn about.

    Margot’s Magic Carpet
    Books With a WOW Factor

  6. Thanks for sharing this good news. We can certainly use more of that.