White Pelicans in trouble?[Fwd: bird]
>Thomas Miko (Mikó Tamás)
> From: Darkmater@...
> Date: 2004/07/12 Mon PM 02:47:33 CDT
> To: thomas.miko@...
> Subject: bird
> Where Are the Pelicans? Scientists Don't Know
> Birds Absent From North Dakota Nesting Grounds
> By JAMES MacPHERSON, AP
> CHASE LAKE NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, N.D. (July 12) - The air here this time
> of year usually is filled with the grunts and squawks of thousands of white
> pelicans and their chicks. The giant birds have made the refuge their home
> for at least 100 years.
> Now their nesting grounds are quiet. The pelicans are gone - and no one
> knows why.
> Everybody, from biologists to bartenders, has a theory.
> "Those wildlife agents scared them away," said Jake Bohl, a blacksmith in
> Woodworth, a town of about 80 people 15 miles northeast of Chase Lake. "That's
> my explanation."
> The 4,385-acre refuge in central North Dakota had been known as the home of
> the largest nesting colony of white pelicans in North America. The nearly
> 28,000 birds that showed up to nest here in early April took off in late May and
> early June, leaving their chicks and eggs behind.
> Paul Guthmiller, an 85-year-old farmer, said he's seen pelicans in the area
> since he was a child. He figures heavy rains and cool temperatures in late
> May drove the birds away.
> These days, the only pelicans in Medina, N.D., near the Chase Lake National
> Wildlife Refuge, are fake.
> "I think there is too much water for them because of too much rain,"
> Guthmiller said.
> Normally, the pelicans stay at the refuge through September, raising their
> young and feasting on crawfish, small fish and salamanders from small ponds
> known as "prairie potholes." The area is filled with the stench of droppings
> from the thousands of birds and their chicks.
> Now, sweet-smelling wildflowers have taken hold in the guano-rich soil.
> Wildlife officials have considered diseases, food supply, water quality,
> weather, predators and other factors, but have found no satisfactory explanation
> for the exodus, said Mick Erickson, the Chase Lake refuge manager.
> "Right now, everybody has an opinion," Erickson said. "But honestly, there
> isn't any explanation. This is the first time it's happened."
> The white pelican is one of the largest birds in North America, measuring
> six feet from bill to tail. They weigh up to 20 pounds and have a wingspan of
> nearly 10 feet. While awkward on land, white pelicans are acrobats in the air.
> Pelicans have been monitored at Chase Lake since 1905, when the birds
> numbered about 50. President Theodore Roosevelt designated the site as a bird
> refuge in 1908, when many of the birds were being killed for their feathers and
> for target practice.
> Samples from about two dozen dead pelicans from the reserve and from other
> parts of the Upper Midwest are being tested at the National Wildlife Health
> Center in Madison, Wis.
> "There has been no consistent finding as to cause of death," said Kathryn
> Converse, wildlife disease specialist with the center.
> Researchers had found botulism in two of the dead pelicans from the reserve,
> Converse said. None of the pelicans had tested positive for West Nile or
> other viruses, she said.
> Erickson said officials initially blamed a coyote that had a den about a
> mile from the nesting grounds, and killed it. But the exodus continued.
> "It's weird," Erickson said. "We feel helpless because we don't know what
> else to look at."
> Wildlife officials have been doing annual aerial surveys of the pelicans
> since 1972. The number of pelicans had tripled at the refuge in the past 30
> years. A record 35,466 breeding pelicans and 17,733 nests were tallied in 2000 at
> Chase Lake, Erickson said.
> This year, there have been reports of extraordinary pelican sightings in
> Illinois, Wisconsin, Montana, Nebraska and Michigan. But the numbers reported
> throughout the Upper Midwest do not add up to the nearly 28,000 recorded at the
> refuge in May, before the exodus, Erickson said.
> A couple of hundred "loafers," or pelicans not yet of breeding age, remain
> at prairie potholes in the Chase Lake area, Erickson said.
> Erickson is betting the big birds will return to Chase Lake next year.
> "For whatever reason, they picked Chase Lake to nest for hundreds and maybe
> thousands of years," Erickson said. "I'm pretty confident they'll come back."
> If the birds do return, Erickson said, access for birdwatchers would be
> limited during nesting.
> The pelicans may be making some kind of a natural correction, said Ken
> Torkelson, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Bismarck.
> "They've been relying on Chase Lake a long time, and maybe they felt it
> could no longer support the species so they picked up and moved some place that
> could," he said.
> 07/12/04 05:45 EDT
> Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP
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> without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. All active
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