Pelicans are found on coastal salt water, beaches, bays, marshes and on the open ocean, most numerously within a few kilometers of shore throughout the year. At Sweetwater Reservoir, brown pelicans (up to approximately 50 individuals) have been observed regularly from late summer through fall, presumably feeding on the abundant fish population in the reservoir.
Population declines in the 1960s and 1970s were due to the agricultural use of organochlorine pesticides (DDT) which harmed reproduction by causing egg shell thinning and consequential collapse. Since the ban on DDT, the most current threats to the population are pollution, human disturbance of breeding colonies, loss or serious decline of food fishes to human over-fishing, specifically the anchovy, loss of post-breeding roost sites, fishing gear entanglement and bacterial infection resulting from overcrowding at fish disposal areas in harbors.
The pelican was listed as Federally Endangered in 1970, State Endangered in 1971. Monitoring and management activities include protecting nesting colonies from human disturbances in California, annual assessment of reproductive success in southern California populations, preparation of a recovery plan, investigation of the importance of post-breeding areas along the coast of California, Oregon and Washington, disease investigations and studies on the effects of waterfowl shooting on pelicans at the Moss Landing Wildlife Area (Monterey County).
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Photo by Anthony Mercieca©