Great news to report today. The brown pelican has been officially declared recovered and removed from the Endangered Species list! If you live along the California Coast, you will know this to be true. Large squadrons of the amazing, yet somewhat prehistoric-looking pterodactyl can be seen skimming the waves today. Even just 10 years ago, this was not true.
Brown pelicans, along with other iconic birds such as the Peregrine falcon fell victim to the effects of DDT in the environment. The clarion call was sounded in Rachel Carson's famous 1962 book, "Silent Spring" warning of the impacts of pesticides on the nation's songbird populations. But it was over 10 years before DDT was finally banned in the U.S.
DDT's impact on pelicans (and others) was to alter the way they metabolized calcium, the essential ingredient for a healthy egg shell. As a result, pelicans laid eggs with fragile shells that easily broke during the incubation period. As a result, very few chicks were born and the populations started to plummet (pun not intended).
Despite the U.S. ban, DDT persisted in the environment for many years, and its impacts are still felt today in some wildlife populations. However, for birds like the pelican, whose future looked very uncertain, this particular bullet has been dodged.
Always good to have a reason to celebrate, and recognize that when our species steps up to the plate and does the right thing, our wildlife can recover.